Central African Republic (MNN) — Hatred seems to be festering as Muslims and Christians continue to engage in a tit-for-tat dispute in the Central African Republic.
Splintered factions behind the violence make the potential of peace a hard purpose to embrace. Renewed violence across the country marked the anniversary of the March 24 seizure of power by the ex-Seleka.
That touched off a new wave of vicious attacks four days ago throughout the CAR. The United Nations Children’s Fund warns that thousands of children, from both Muslim and Christian communities, are especially at risk. They have confirmed reports of the deaths of at least three children in an attack March 27. In the past week of violence, eight children injured by grenade and gunfire have been treated.
It’s gotten so bad that the locals are calling the fighting the Somalization of the country.
Last week, the African Union branded militia targeting Muslims as “terrorists” and said they would be treated as enemy combatants, a day after killing a Congolese peacekeeper.
In Muslim areas, villages are made up of gutted buildings and burned-out homes, beyond which the Christian militia lie in wait, trying to starve out the survivors. At the same time, there are the remains of burned-out Christian quarters, and grieving families.
Open Doors USA president and CEO David Curry says the impact of this is long-term. “You can see that this will have ramifications for generations to come when people refer to the faith of Christianity, because people will not easily be able to easily separate what that means.”
CAR has been plagued by violence since December 2012, when a coalition of militant Islamist rebel groups, led by Michel Djotodia under the Muslim-rebel Séléka banner, moved through the country to eventually drive out President Francois Bozizé in March 2013.
Djotodia disbanded Séléka in September, sparking a wave of retaliatory violence from the Anti-Balaka militia groups, who are often culturally Christian. Curry explains, “Essentially you have a society that is totally falling apart, and Christians are fighting back. It’s a very dangerous situation.” Djotodia was ousted in January in favor of Catherine Samba-Panza, the country’s first female head of state.
Meanwhile, despite the presence of a French peacekeeping force, the killing, looting, and destruction of villages have continued. Nearly 300,000 people have fled before the onslaught. Curry says as far as reports of persecution go, “It’s not clear whenever somebody says ‘it was a Christian group’ that they’re actually what we who are Christians in the West would think of as ‘Christians,’ as in ‘followers of Jesus.’”
However, that’s not to say that believers aren’t feeling the weight of persecution. “When you’re thinking of the situation in the CAR, think of a very dangerous situation where pastors [and] other well-known Christians aren’t allowed to sleep in their homes because groups come in and behead them.”
According to Operation World, at one time the CAR was one of the world’s most evangelized nations (at least on a superficial level). It says the CAR is 76% Christian and 14% Muslim.
Open Doors workers in Central Africa Republic (CAR) have asked that we pray for their troubled nation. Curry agrees, noting the specifics. “We need to pray for peace, and we need to pray that the real Church, the body of Christ there, will stand firm and try to get back to some understanding of what it means to be a Christian, to follow the words of Jesus–the Prince of Peace.”