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UN suspends ties with Caritas over sex abuse probe

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Agence France-Presse

UN aid groups said Monday they have suspended cooperation with the Catholic charity Caritas in the Central African Republic after a probe was opened into its former country chief for alleged sexual abuse of minors there.

Luk Delft, a Belgian priest, worked for two years in the northern city of Kaga Bandoro where the abuse allegedly occurred before he was promoted to Caritas’s director in the CAR in 2015.

Caritas has been operating in the strife-torn country since 1991, mainly coordinating programmes to protect children and assist displaced people.

The UN humanitarian agency OCHA said that among the projects affected by the rupture is the management of displaced people’s camps in northern Nana Grebizi province as well as a food programme in southern Bambari.

Delft had informed his superiors of the allegations after the US news outlet CNN reported on them in June.

The Dignity foundation, set up by the Catholic Church in Belgium to combat the sexual abuse of minors, demanded in a statement on June 26 that Delft return home “immediately”.

It also called for the “preventive suspension of all his missions as priest for the duration of the investigation” launched in September by Belgian prosecutors.

Delft had already been convicted of sexual assault in a case dating from 2001. A court in Ghent gave him an 18-month suspended sentence in 2012 and banned him from any work involving contact with minors for 10 years.

Reached by AFP, the Vatican-based Caritas Internationalis said it “acknowledges the concerns of the international and local donor community”.

It added in an email: “We are positive that those concerns can be met as (the local Caritas) re-establishes donor confidence.”

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