C.Africa interfaith group receives UN peace prize

(L-R) Head of Central Africa's Evangelical Alliance, Pastor Nicolas Guerekoyame Bangou, head of the country's Islamic Council, Imam Kobine Layama, and Catholic Archbishop of Bangui, Dieudonne Nzapalainga, on March 31, 2014 in Berlin (AFP Photo/Johannes Eisele)

Geneva (AFP) - Members of the Central African Republic's Interfaith Peace Platform on Wednesday received an international peace award for their work to reconcile Muslims and Christians in the war-ravaged country.

The prize, in honour of United Nations envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello who was killed when a suicide bomber attacked the UN offices in Baghdad 12 years ago, was handed over to three of Central Africa's top religious leaders at a ceremony in Geneva.

The Catholic Archbishop of Bangui, Dieudonne Nzapalainga, the head of the Central Africa's Islamic Council Imam Oumar Kobine Layama and the head of the country's Evangelical Alliance, Pastor Nicolas Guerekoyamene-Gbangou received their golden plaques from Vieira de Mello's widow and two sons in the UN's European headquarters.

"The Interfaith Peace Platform shows what it takes during a crisis to bring a country together across the social, cultural and religious divides," one of the sons, Laurent Vieira de Mello, who heads the Sergio Vieira de Mello Foundation, said in a statement.

The three founders were hailed for creating their Interfaith Peace Platform as violence began exploding across their landlocked nation two years ago in a bid to promote dialogue and prevent religious violence.

The Central African Republic is struggling to recover from the sectarian violence that erupted after a 2013 coup, pitting mainly Muslim rebels against Christian militias.

Thousands have died in the violence since then and hundreds of thousands remain displaced from their homes.

Brazilian national Sergio Vieira de Mello was killed along with 21 others on August 19, 2003, when a suicide bomber detonated an explosives-rigged truck next to the Canal Hotel, which housed United Nations offices.

The prize in his memory is awarded every two years to an individual, group or an organisation for efforts to reconcile people and parties in conflict.

It has previously gone to Catholic Bishop Emeritus Paride Taban of South Sudan, and to Iraqi non-governmental organisation the Al-Mesalla Centre for Human Resource Development.