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Not a Day Without Trauma

August 22, 2013 by Open Doors in General

Not a Day Without Trauma

“There is not a single day without the discovery of a body in the river Oubangui” shared a distraught Open Doors (OD) source reporting from Bangui, capital of the Central African Republic. “Early August Islamists stopped a commercial vehicle and executed all its travelers. They put the corpses in bags and threw them into the river. What a horror! We counted in one week in Bangui over 100 murders. And we don’t even speak about the killings in the interior or the continuing rape of women. I cannot keep record of these any more…these scenes overwhelm me. At 18:00 everybody is already at home and in the house. But in spite of this, they come and take away and kill.”

These are the harsh realities facing civilians across the Central African Republic and the precarious circumstances of Christians.  Christians have been specifically targeted, not necessarily for their faith, but targeted nonetheless. Fearful of being attacked at home during the night, many no longer sleep at home.

Julien Bela, journalist of the Newspaper Centrafric Matin, compared the current circumstances in CAR to the situation in Northern Mali during the Islamic occupation. In the July 22 article, he wrote that the rebels have no mercy for people and treat them worse than animals. Mutilation of bodies has become common practice. Bereaved families don’t even take their murdered family members’ bodies to the morgue, as in many cases the mutilated bodies are already in advanced stages of decomposition.

Fatou Bensouda, Prosecutor for the International Criminal Court (ICC), declared that UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)  findings “seem to confirm that crimes that may fall under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court continue to be committed in CAR, including attacks against civilians, murder, rape, and recruitment of child soldiers.”

There is no lack of proof for the lawlessness that persists in the country since the coup by Michiel Djotodia and his Seleka coalition. Christians say Seleka soldiers continue to perform summary executions, mutilations and other atrocities like rape and robbery on a large scale. Countless atrocities have been carried out against civilians, especially Christians, in the countryside and in the cities.

In the city of Kouango, a man called Colonel Balaka (machete) has become notorious for his brutality. He is also constantly plundering churches. A 12-year-old Christian girl named Chancela Gbodeka from Kouango recently became one of his victims. When news came that he was approaching her neighborhood, she did not flee because she wanted to care for her ailing father. When the “Colonel” discovered her there, he brutally assaulted her. The next day he found her at the market and assaulted her again, publicly. When he came looking for her on the third day, she was forced to abandon her father and flee through a window. In an attempt to force the father to bring his daughter back, the “Colonel” severely harassed the father. Afterward, terrified neighbors carried her father deep into the woods, fearful that the man would return to torture the father.

Another example of the dangers Christians face is the “violent” arrest of Pastor Nicolas Grekoyame Gbangouon, President of the Evangelical Alliance of Central African Republic (CAR), following his public criticism of the rebel government of Central African Republic as reported by World Watch Monitor (WWM). Thankfully, Pastor Grekoyame was released under extraordinary circumstances at around 11pm on the day of his arrest. Sources told us that as soon as the Catholic Archbishop of Bangui heard about the arrest he marched to the prison in an amazing display of unity and courage and told officials he wanted to be imprisoned with the pastor, and even die with him. The Vatican was informed and soon the Interior Minister Adam Nourredine arrived at the prison to arrange for his release.

However, “Seleka soldiers took revenge on another pastor from the same denomination that same night,” wrote the OD source. He reported that soldiers arrived at the house of a pastor belonging to Pastor Grekoyame’s denomination in Bangui that same night, obviously with evil intent. Unable to find the church leader, they killed his son Musa and shot his wife in the arm.

Despite the efforts of the ECCAS (Economic Community of Central African States) peace keeping force, and President Djotodia’s stated attempts to re-establish peace, stability remains elusive. United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Simonovic summarized the situation after a July visit to the country, observing that “there is no police, no justice system and no social services” beyond Bangui. “Security is virtually non-existent and people live in constant fear.”

Father, as leaders of Your church in CAR seek to respond to the violence in ways that honor You, we pray for their protection, for wisdom and discernment, and that You would use even the earthly means of the international community to bring help. We pray for Your grace and comfort to fill the people of CAR who have faced months of trauma, that You would be especially near to them, a present help in this time of trouble. We pray that You would draw many who do not yet know You to call upon Christ for salvation. Father today, we ask that You shower Chancela Gbodeka with divine healing for both the  physical and emotional scars that she endured. Father be her comfort and her protector in the days ahead. Lord Jesus we give our thanks and praise  for Your clear presence in the release of Pastor Nicolas Grekoyame Gbangouon. Even as we pray for the churches in CAR to stand with courage for Your truth and in compassion for people of CAR, we pray that You would watch over them. In the name of Jesus, our present help in times of trouble, Amen.

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