PIONEERS

Imam Omar Kobine Layama, Archbishop Dieudonné Nzapalainga and The Rev. Nicolas Guérékoyame-Gbangou

From left: Imam Omar Kobine Layama, Archbishop Dieudonné Nzapalainga, and The Rev. Nicolas Guérékoyame-Gbangou.
From left: Imam Omar Kobine Layama, Archbishop Dieudonné Nzapalainga, and The Rev. Nicolas Guérékoyame-Gbangou. Illustrations by Michael Hoeweler for TIME

Faith leaders on the front line

As violence ravages Central African Republic, three men are working tirelessly for peace to hold their country together. Imam Omar Kobine Layama, president of the Central African Islamic Community; Dieudonné Nzapalainga, the Archbishop of Bangui; and Nicolas Guérékoyame-Gbangou, president of the Evangelical Alliance of the Central African Republic, are religious leaders who actually do what their faith tells them to do. Sharing a meal with these three showed me again what can happen when faith leaders walk their talk. Their witness has come with significant personal costs. For example, Imam Layama and his family have lived with the Archbishop since December when it became too dangerous in Bangui to stay in the imam’s house. Because of their efforts the world is taking notice of the conflict. The imam eloquently stated an important truth: “Politics try to divide the religious in our country, but religion shouldn’t be a cause of hate, war or strife.”

Wallis is president and founder of Sojourners; his new book is The (Un)Common Good: How the Gospel Brings Hope to a World Divided

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