CAR (ODM/MNN) — According to the United Nations’ Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, nearly a fifth of the Central African Republic is on the move due to the tense security situation.
In the capital city of Bangui, lootings, shootings, killings, and targeted attacks have led to the deaths of about 10 people on a daily basis.
Since the uprising began, the UNHCR estimates that some 825,000 people have been displaced across CAR, with 400,341 Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) in Bangui. Even though there is a glimmer of hope with the swearing in of new interim president Catherine Samba-Panza last week, the slaughter hasn’t abated much.
The crisis also developed religious overtones. Open Doors shares that Christian leaders have said, “In this situation, Christians are specifically most affected. Rebels rape civilians and religious orders, desecrate churches and religious institutions, and perpetrate violence against priests and pastors in particular. A number have been assassinated.”
Christian Solidarity Worldwide confirms this in a recent report. On January 28, Seleka rebels killed Pastor Kongbo, treasurer of the Union des Eglises Baptistes (UEB), along with his son at their home. Open Doors spokesman Jerry Dykstra says, “The bottom line is that it’s a very clear proof is that Christians in CAR have been facing persecution in this conflict, and, as usual, are caught in the middle.”
On the same day, the UN Security Council agreed to sanctions allowing for targeted punitive action against anyone violating an arms embargo imposed in December 2013, committing human rights abuses, undermining peace and stability, or obstructing humanitarian assistance.
They also deployed a peacekeeping force to the region. Open Doors, in partnership with the local church, continues to call on the United Nations Security Council to approve the launch of a full-scale peacekeeping operation in CAR, which appeared this year on the World Watch List for the first time, ranking #16.
Atrocities mount daily. Dykstra shares, “In the interior, Seleka forces/rebel forces burned down more 200 Christian homes in one area. Local sources said the death toll is expected to be in the hundreds. Please continue to pray for the country where there seems to be no end to the nightmare.”
Worse, they’re now seeing evidence of ethnic cleansing by way of rape. Amnesty International notes that rape is often used in conflicts as a way for attackers to spread their social control, redraw ethnic boundaries, and subjugate a populace. Dykstra confirms this, too. “Over the years, we have seen a rape and sexual violence directed toward women, men, and children, often used as a weapon of war.”
For the survivors, it’s not just the attack they must face. “They also are rejected from their families, marginalized by society, and ignored by their congregation.”
An Open Doors worker saw the emotional needs as well as the economic impact and started praying for a woman to come alongside the ministry to help. God answered the prayer by providing such a woman in Komoyo Lina (not her real name), who has since started counseling as many victims as possible in the insecure and violent area.
Open Doors is in the process of expanding the counseling ministry in CAR. However, for the work to progress, much more security is needed. Pray that the number of peacekeeping troops in CAR will increase.
The situation is dire. Aid agencies also report that if farmers are not supplied with tools and seeds to plant, a nationwide food crisis could be on the horizon. Up to 94% of communities report that they do not have enough seed to plant in March, which will cause extensive famine. A Multi-sectorial Initial Rapid Assessment (MIRA) of humanitarian needs in CAR indicate that the hunger gap that usually starts in July will this year move forward to February.
Pray for grace for Christians as they respond to challenging and dangerous situations. Pray that humanitarian projects will be able to reach the hundreds of thousands of people in need. Pray for the protection of aid workers. Pray for God’s guidance and wisdom for Open Doors workers in communicating about the crisis, in planning and executing OD project, and in advocating for greater international involvement in the form of a U.N. peacekeeping force.