What do you do when the world isn’t paying attention to one of the world’s worst crises? You use a giant projector to put 30 foot images on the sides of buildings.
Last month the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum raised the alarm of a potential genocide in the Central African Republic. With violence increasing in CAR and media continuing to ignore the crisis of 2.5 million people displaced, the USHMM hopes to draw much-needed attention to what is being called the Forgotten Crisis.
The Central African Republic is teetering on the edge of chaos, but the outside world, including the United States, is paying very little attention. The photos showed the effects and the lives impacted in the civil war between sectarian Christians and Muslims waging war in the Central African Republic — a feud that has been ongoing for the past two years.
Following the ousting of controversial leader President Bozize in 2013, the violence has yet to slow as the number of displaced people rises to 2.5 million. The conflict lies within the clash between multiple militias loosely falling under two categories: the Anti-Balaka (meaning anti-machete, or machete proof) whose majority identify as Christian and the majority Islamic faith Seleka (translating from the national language of Sango to mean ‘alliance’).A panel discussed the ongoing conflict in Central African Republic as bleak photos brought these stories to life behind them. New Republic reporter, Graeme Wood (second from the left), provided commentary discussing Michael Christopher Brown’s photos from a trip to CAR earlier this year.
The lack of media attention does not mean that international groups have turned a blind eye to this conflict. Just this year Amnesty International called attention to the “ethnic cleansing” that has occurred on either side of the conflict.
In Central African Republic, it is clear that either side will freely kill those that do not identify with their religion. In an NPR interview earlier this year Wood stated: “If a Christian strays into the Muslim side or a Muslim into the Christian side, there’s a very good chance that he’s going to be killed — executed on the spot.”
The Central African Republic is ranked the highest level — a level three — on the United Nations’ list for humanitarian crisis. This high ranking reflects the amount of need that exists in CAR with more than half the country in urgent need.
The number of MINUSCA, or Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic, peacekeepers will peak in January 2015, but even peacekeepers are not immune to violence. In October, a peacekeeper from Pakistan was left dead and multiple other peacekeepers were wounded in an ambush in the capital Bangui.
Though many conflicts around the world employ children as soldiers, it is no less shocking to hear the number of children enlisted in the crisis in CAR. Children suffer most in this conflict and are excluded from the violence around the IDP camps where many CAR citizens now live, it was just a year ago that the UNICEF reported the beheading of two children and mutilation of another. Living in makeshift homes, many children are left with little to no education throughout the conflict.
A year ago the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum displayed building-sized images of persecuted Rohingya in Burma. The result: legislation was passed in the House and is pending in Senate and President Obama raised the persecution of the Rohingya directly with Burma’s President.
Though CAR’s past has been grim and the future is unknown, the Museum’s attention to Burma prefaced the spark of international attention to their crisis. It is now up to the international community to incite the same attention and action for the Central African Republic crisis as well.
To find out more about the Central African Republic, see the photos from Michael Christopher Brown in CAR at the USHMM’s photo gallery here and read Graeme Wood and Michael Christopher Brown’s article “Hell is an Understatement” in The New Republic.