Central African Republic: Conditions at Refugee Camps “Shocking-
Christians gathered for worship on Jan 12, in the refugee camp at CAR’s Bangui Airport. An Open Doors (OD) co-worker reported joining them for worship and communion in the midst of appalling conditions. He witnessed firsthand the desperate circumstances that aid agencies, including the UN humanitarian agency, have been reporting from CAR. The UN humanitarian agency reported increasing food and clean water shortages, and fears that tougher times are ahead as many people have lost their livelihoods and don’t have seed for the next planting season. “People live like real animals. There is no latrine. People are living in over-crowded conditions,” reported the co-worker. Aid agencies estimate that at least 1 million people, about a fifth of the population, have been displaced by the violence in CAR. OD visited two of the camps scattered around Bangui from Jan 11-12. “There are 57 refugee sites in the city of Bangui. At the airport, there are at least 100,000 people. I went there this morning to worship and pray with the Christians who gathered there after victimization by ex-Seleka forces,” wrote the OD co-worker. He noted that tension permeated the atmosphere in the camps. “The airport site inspires fear. Among the refugees there are members of anti-Balaka groups and also Muslims who disguise themselves as people of peace and then throw grenades among Christians.” Following the Jan 10 resignation of the interim president and the prime minister, the newly appointed interim president Alexandre-Ferdinand Nguendet issued a stern statement, saying, “The chaos is over; the pillaging is over, the revenge attacks are over.” Though violence continued over the weekend, by Jan 13, the atmosphere had reportedly calmed down some. The countless refugees across the country welcome the indications of the political will to end the crisis. However, bringing peace to CAR will be no easy task. Open Doors, in partnership with the local church, continues to call on the United Nations Security Council to approve the launch of a full-scale peacekeeping operation in CAR, which appeared this year on the World Watch List for the first time, ranking #16. Considering the tremendously difficult circumstances Christians are facing, it is praiseworthy that the OD co-worker found them gathered for worship in the two refugee camps he visited. Though encouraged by their faithfulness, this OD worker, unnamed for his security, remains overwhelmed by the immense needs of those he met. “I have met many pastors who have been victimized who are in dire need of assistance. Our discreet assistance to others previously has made a big difference and I hope that we can make the same difference for these pastors I recently met.” Father, as we lift up yet one more nation on the continent of Africa caught up in conflict, we pray for Christians in the Central African Republic as they face this wave of persecution. We pray Your protection over the thousands who are living in horrific conditions at the refugee camps. Provide for their temporal needs and protect them from those who would destroy them. Pour out Your blessing upon them as they worship You even in the midst of fear and trauma. Strengthen the pastors who are in need of assistance that Open Doors workers might find safe ways to help. Soften the hearts of the nation’s leaders and accomplish a work of reconciliation among them. In the name of Jesus, who is our strength when we are weak, Amen.