Central African Republic (MNN) — A unity military ceremony Wednesday was filled with a sense of optimism in the Central African Republic.
Interim president Catherine Samba-Panza presided and pledged to secure most of the country “within a month,” vowing to go after any agitators.
It was meant to be a fresh beginning, but moments after she left, the past returned with vengeance. Spokesman for the Voice of the Martyrs USA Todd Nettleton says, “They’re still a long way from any kind of peace and stability in the country.”
He goes on to explain, “Apparently, shortly after the interim president had left the scene, some of the soldiers there apparently pulled a man out of the crowd, who they thought had been part of the rebels, and murdered him right there.” Wednesday’s killing showed just how far the Central African Republic has disintegrated into a tit-for-tat barbarism.
Since last year’s coup, fighting has left more than 900,000 people internally displaced while an estimated 86,000 have fled the country. Last month, rebel-installed president Michel Djotodia resigned in a bid to bring peace. His position was filled by another interim president, Catherine Samba-Panza.
If they hoped these moves would still the brutality, those hopes were stillborn. Roughly 6,500 French and African peacekeepers are struggling to stem the viciousness. In the 10 months since the Selekas occupied cities and towns across the country, their presence has been marked by rampant looting, torture, and murder. Another militia band, deeply resentful of the treatment, formed to stop the Seleka advance. This band was comprised of the Christian majority tribe.
At this point, some ministries reported incidents in which they were targeted. Nettleton notes that “there have been pastors that have been killed. Apparently, after Muslim rebels were seeking them out, looking for them, asking about them, they eventually found them and killed them. So, it does seem like some pastors have been targeted.” Other reports began trickling in that supported sounding the persecution alarm because of religious overtones. However, Nettleton says the issue is complex. He agrees that “there’s persecution for a Christian identity, as in ‘Oh yeah, he’s part of that tribe, and most of them are Christians, so he must be a Christian.’ Then there’s persecution because of Christian witness.”
The Voice of the Martyrs has been trying to get an assessment done for more information. “We really sit down with those local believers and ask them: ‘What can we do to help you? What is the best way to help you?’ Right now, with Central African Republic, because of the security situation, it’s just very difficult to try to go there and do that work.”
Security issues have been highly disruptive for many ministries, Nettleton adds. “Among foreign missionary workers, many of them have had to leave the country because of the instability, because of the danger there. The Central African Republic Church, the local believers, are left with carrying the full load of the work there.”
With the added load, Gospel workers need stamina, strength, and vision to meet the increasing needs. Nettleton says that’s especially true now. “People are thinking about eternity and perhaps even more open than they would normally be to Christian teaching, to the witness of Christian people. So, we can pray for their safety and protection, and then we can pray for the ministry and for fruit for the work that they’re doing.”