A spiral of reprisal violence in the western portion of the Central African Republic this month has resulted in the desecration of a Catholic parish and has forced 18 priests and nuns to flee, according to Agenzia Fides, the Vatican’s missionary news service.

The trouble began earlier this month when members of the rebel coalition Seléka arrested a bicycle mechanic “for no reason,” Fides reported. On Aug. 16, a fed-up group of “young local hunters” killed four Seléka members in retaliation. The next day, Fides reports, rebels entered the town of Bouar, guns firing. They ransacked the housing quarters of the Sœurs de la Charité, burned classrooms and desecrated the church. The Diocese of Bouar sent a convoy to evacuate the priests and nuns to Bohong, about 80 kilometres to the west. Fides reports that its sources in Bouar say “reprisals are likely to last for a long time.”