Christians in the Central African Republic Desperately Need Your Prayers
Most war-torn areas are remote, hiding far from civilization as though the world itself doesn’t want to see them. But the 18,000 displaced and desperate Christians living in the east side of the Central African Republic (CAR) are easy to reach: a U.N. flight can drop you off right on the doorstep of the refugee camp in Kaga Bandoro.
Far more complicated is understanding why the Christians in the CAR are being intensely persecuted, and what can be done about it. CAR’s political history is convoluted and nearly impossible to understand as an outsider. It involves corrupt and unstable governments, warring ethnic tribes, atrocities committed by multiple sides and always in the mix either the real or perceived involvement of religion. Much like what happened in the Rwandan genocide, once an oppressed side takes power, they take revenge. And currently, the Christians of CAR, innocent families in small villages, are on the receiving side of the persecution.
The Internally Displaced People (IDP) camp in Kaga Bandoro is filled with Christians who have lost everything and are trying to find some semblance of a peaceful existence while healing from the atrocities they’ve experienced.
“What happened to my family on that day of October 12th last year is that my old, lame mother was killed in our house,” said a resident of the IDP camp named Yvette. “When the shooting began, I took the little children and ran to safety in the woods. When I came back, I found her beaten to death. Beaten badly. Personally, I don’t understand how you can possibly kill an elderly, lame woman. How can you just beat her until she is dead? On top of that, they also burned our house. But I did not denounce God. What is painful to me is that I don’t have the possibility to serve God like before. My father was a pastor, and I was one of the youth leaders. Now, I am serving God with fear in my heart. I even buried my mother with fear. I want you to pray for all of us. Ask God to bring back peace to our country. Things like these should never happen again. We should not have to lose our old people in this meaningless way.”
At the IDP camp, their pastors have set up churches, attempting to bring hope to the displaced Christians who even in the camp fear reprisal from Muslim neighbors, are chronically short of food, and barely have shelter. One of them, a former Bible college professor named Pastor Paul, came to the camp after his school was raided by Seleka, the militia group currently controlling half the country.
“On October 12th, we had our morning break at nine. That’s when we saw the fighters of Seleka rush onto the school premises. All we could do was drop everything and run away to safety. They came in two groups, one chased us away and the other, on motorcycles, looted everything. They stole our things and destroyed my house. That is where we had the library and the accounts.”
Pastor Paul says he is choosing not to be discouraged, instead, he’s calling other Christians in the camp to remember the gospel message of hope and reconciliation.
“I encourage students to continue studying. In the Bible, it says that God sifts His people in dark times. I teach my students when we come together in this church to continue the school year and that they have to endure. They must stay true to their faith. And, yes, they must be forgiving. God’s Word does not teach us to pray that God kills our enemies but that He will change their hearts.”
This isn’t an easy message for many in the camp to hear. A young woman at the camp carrying a child in her arms and one at her side tells her story:
“We ran and ran and finally arrived in this camp. But when we fled, we didn’t have time to grab clothes for our children. After some hours, my husband said, “The shooting has calmed down, let’s go home and get some clothes for the children.” When we arrived back home, we didn’t know that Seleka fighters were in our house. My husband went in first. They grabbed him. I ran away, but then I thought, “They have my husband.” What can I do alone? Then I went back. I wanted to see what they were doing with my husband. When I entered the house, I saw them literally slaughter him. He could not fight back because four of them were sitting on top of him. Now, I want you to pray for me. I am worried. I don’t know how to feed my children. Please pray for my heart to find rest.”
Open Doors is actively supporting the church in the Central African Republic through local partners by delivering Bibles and Bible studies to church leaders, providing financial assistance to church leaders, and helping rebuild churches destroyed through violence. Both your donations and prayer are needed for the Christian brothers and sisters struggling in the CAR. Specifically pray that God would provide relief for those who are suffering, rise up a stable government and bring supernatural protection for the leaders who are bravely continuing to share the good news of Jesus.