United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon is appealing to the Central African Republic to end violence he says has taken the country to "the brink of ruin."
In a video address to the CAR's people Friday, Mr. Ban said he was "deeply troubled" by what is happening in the country and called on "everyone to follow the path of peace."
He spoke soon after the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights' office said there had been an alarming increase in tensions among religious communities in the CAR.
In a briefing, spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said 27 Muslims were killed in the western village of Bohong.
She said the Muslims appear to have been killed Thursday by "anti-balaka" fighters, who are mostly Christian.
The spokeswoman said there have also been reports of retaliatory attacks between Christians and Muslims in the capital, Bangui, over the past few days.
In his video address, Mr. Ban said people in the CAR should not allow the "voices of hatred" to sow division where it previously did not exist.
"Whatever your faith or background, you share the same history and the same future. I call on religious and community leaders -- Muslim and Christian -- to act as messengers for peace. "
Relief organizations say fighting and sectarian violence has left more than 600 people dead over the past week.
The U.N. refugee agency says the recent unrest has displaced almost 160,000 people. The agency says about 38,000 civilians have sought refuge at Bangui's airport, where there are "no latrines or washing facilities."
France and the African Union have sent additional troops to the CAR over the past week in hopes of restoring calm.
The country descended into chaos after the rebel mostly Muslim Seleka movement toppled the president in March.
The government of interim President Michel Djotodia has been unable to exert control over mostly Muslim ex-Seleka fighters, who were blamed for a surge in killings and other crimes.