Violence in Bangui, capital of Central Africa Republic, has left a pastor dead and his church razed, while various outbreaks of fighting between Muslim factions have caused thousands of Christians to flee their homes in the north of the country.
Supporters of a notorious Muslim warlord called “Big-Man” killed Pastor Jean Paul Sankagui of the Eglise du Christ en Centrafrique (ECC) in the troubled PK5 area of Bangui on Feb. 7. President of the ECC, Pastor Jean Noel Ndanguere, reported that the deadly attack came after Army and MINUSCA forces patrolling the KM5 area shot and killed two of Big-Man’s supporters who had fired at them near St. Mathias Catholic church. In response, the warlord’s angry gang turned on local Christians. They killed Pastor Sankagui in his home and set his church on fire. They also burned down the Apostolic Church in PK5. It is not immediately clear how many others were killed or injured in the attack on the second church because Big-Man’s supporters blocked entry into the area.
At least three Christian places of worship have now been destroyed in the nation’s capital since the beginning of the year. On the night of Jan. 14, Muslims in the PK5 sector set fire to a tent being used as a temporary place of worship by the Baptist Union of Churches (UFEB) Gbaya Dombia congregation. According to the pastor, Muslims have declared that a Christian gathering place will not be allowed until Muslims have returned to the area and reopened their mosques.
These violent attacks in Bangui took place shortly after upwards of 9,000 people, many of whom are Christians, were forced out of their homes by rebel infighting in the northern town of Bocaranga in the Ouham Pende province. The UN reported that locals were forced to flee into the bush after violence erupted between two unnamed armed groups. In the clashes, international non-governmental organization compounds were attacked and pillaged, and at-least one office was completely burned down. Moreover, shops and markets were “systematically pillaged,” as was one church, said the UN.
Thousands of Christians are spread out in camps across the country for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) facing deplorable conditions. In Kaga Bandoro, fire recently destroyed at least 15 tents in one of the camps, leaving the IDPs even more exposed. On Feb. 2, fighting between two Seleka factions of Ali Ndarass and Nourredine Adam over a gold mine near Bambari caused renewed displacement, swelling numbers and worsening already deplorable conditions in displaced people camps there. With the closure of the M’poko camp, many have been forced to return to the volatile PK5 region.
It is important for peace to be restored in the PK5 region of Bangui, as many people believe this unstable area is key to the restoration of peace in the rest of the country. Pray for lasting peace to return to the Central African Republic.
Our Father, full of mercy and grace, we pray earnestly for the people of CAR, that peace may return to this land, a peace that has its roots in the perfect peace Christ brings, peace with the Father that makes us one in Him. We pray for the Christians of CAR, that you will fill them with Your grace and strengthen them to respond to the violence around them in courage and faith, forgiving and praying for their enemies and trusting in You to bring about justice for the lives lost. We pray Your protection over the Christians there, especially those forced to return to the PK5 area following the closure of their refugee camp. Encourage and provide for those who have been displaced. In the name of Jesus who, in the midst of the world’s chaos, shelters us high upon a rock in the shadow of his wings. Amen.