The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon says that immediate action is needed to stop the killing in the Central African Republic (CAR), citing “grave and deplorable atrocities,” and “to prevent the further separation of communities that have lived together for centuries”. The UN Human Rights chief said that, on a recent visit to the CAR, the Prime Minister had effectively admitted to the lack of a “state.” In the absence of an effectively governing authority, the media reports that there is now ongoing retaliation for crimes committed during the Muslim-led Seleka coup, which overthrew the government in March 2013. This retaliation continues even though the coup leader was replaced in January 2014.
Pastor Anatole Banga, Relief Committee coordinator of the Alliance of Evangelical Churches (AEC), spoke recently to Illia Djadi, expressing his concerns about the ongoing conflict.
Banga reflected that the overthrow of President Bozize by Seleka rebels on March 24, 2013, “was a turning point in the history of CAR. Since the country’s independence in 1960, there have been a number of military coups, mutinies and conflicts, but those events are not comparable to the nation’s current level of disorder.” He observes that nothing has been done to produce effective. “AEC has repeatedly condemned this lack of change,” he said, “notably through pastoral letters addressed to the former President of the transition Michel Djotodia. Unfortunately, things are continuing to deteriorate and today the country’s state of chaos has reached such a high level, negative words are all that come to mind when I’m asked to describe the situation.”
When asked if he is claiming that the Islamization of CAR was an intended result of Seleka’s military coup, Banga said, “There is no doubt that Seleka rebels are trying to conform CAR into becoming an Islamic nation. AEC has nothing against Muslims coming to power,” Banga clarified, “but one should question the consequences.”
Though African Union peacekeeping troops drove Seleka fighters from the capital, Banga notes that “the crimes committed by Seleka have never ceased in CAR, as entire regions in the north are occupied by Seleka rebels [who] do not consider themselves defeated. It is just a matter of time, but they will return.”
Responding to the question of whether the anti-Balaka militia is a Christian group, Banga provided background on the militia’s formation. “Many CAR citizens felt unprotected by the government, so the anti-Balaka militia originates from a group formed out of self-defense. The people who make up this group include villagers who have experienced attacks from the Seleka, and their experiences range from having their farms destroyed to watching their relatives being raped and killed, so they decided to fight back.”
Banga emphasized that the church is not behind the anti-Balaka forces. He and other pastors have been threatened by and suffered abuse from anti-Balaka forces. Some pastors have even been killed. “So if the anti-Balaka militia is Christian, why are they targeting their fellow believers?” he asked.
When asked about the support of the international community, Banga remarked that “Many are aware of the strong mobilization of Christians who pray for our country and I thank the Lord for all these prayers. Many are especially grateful for organizations like the Christian charity Open Doors which shows concern about the crisis in CAR, but the situation is still frustrating as we feel overlooked.
“For example, in Bangui alone, hundreds of pastors have seen their properties looted and burned and they now live in refugee camps like beggars. The Church of Gabon is the only one to send food and clothing, 10 tons, to help the pastors in the camps, but pastors are obviously not the only people in need.
“The situation is more acute in the countryside, so if the church across the world does not come to aid CAR, a so-called predominantly Christian country, who will help the Christians?
“There have been a number of declarations which are still not followed by action,” he added. He cited how long it took for FOMAC [the regional force] to be transformed into the African peacekeeping mission, and the continued delay of extra European forces that have been expected since mid-March. “I fear that this may be the same with UN peacekeepers despite Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s proposed deployment of a nearly 12,000-strong UN peacekeeping mission,” he lamented.
“The world does not realize that as things are delayed, the situation continues to get worse. Are we despised by the international community? Shall we wait until tomorrow to start organizing trials for genocide, when it is time to act now?”
Father, we pray for peace and reconciliation to pervade the CAR. May You send help to bring about this peace and may it be clear that that help comes from You. We pray against the senseless bloodshed of Muslims and Christians alike and we pray that You would grant wisdom to Banga and other Christian leaders as they seek godly ways to bring about an end to the killing and destruction even while bringing honor to the name of Christ who lives in them. And as we see that the true enemy is Satan, we pray for the militias on both sides, that You would soften their hearts and bring them to saving faith. We pray for Your church in other parts of Africa and elsewhere in the world to take pity on fellow believers and others suffering in CAR, providing them with needed food and clothing. Restore hope and faith, Lord, that the light of the gospel might shine through them. In the name of Jesus our only true hope in this life and in the life to come, Amen.