Christian churches and organizations are stepping up in the Central African Republic to provide aid to victims of violence and looting even after attacks in June left the offices of two Evangelical organizations ransacked. Tensions in the country between Muslims, who are the minority, and Christians remain high after the Séléka rebel group took power in March of this year. Christians have accused Muslim neighbors of participating in the estimated 400 acts of violence committed by the Séléka rebel group since their overthrow of the previous government.
07/19/2013 Central African Republic (WWM) – International health NGO Medecins sans Frontieres (Doctors without Borders) says the population of the Central African Republic has been “abandoned” to a humanitarian emergency “just when they most need help”, and that the country’s healthcare system has collapsed.
With most NGOs and aid agencies withdrawing to the capital, Bangui, citing security concerns, MSF said in a July 9 report that the international community has failed to do enough to end the country’s crisis.
Several Christian organisations in the country have attempted to provide help, even as some have been looted by rebels.
The republic was plunged into chaos after a rebel coalition called Séléka overthrew the regime of François Bozizé in March, forcing him to flee the country. Numerous acts of violence by the rebels have created a climate of tension and fear across the country. The International Federation for Human Rights reports that Séléka rebels have been accused of more than 400 killings since the rebel group came to power.
The coup followed years of unrest, leading to what the BBC characterised as a “crisis on top of a crisis”. It reported that “hundreds of armed men who helped rebel President Michel Djotodia shoot his way to power in March, and who are mostly unpaid, now loot at will and shoot civilians who try to stop them”.
Rebels have even been known to attack and loot hospitals; MSF says the health system is so devastated it is a “phantom system that cannot be said to function”.
An operation of disarmament was launched by the authorities with the help of the regional military force, but violence has not completely ceased. On June 28, Séléka members attacked and ransacked two evangelical organisations in Bangui in broad daylight. The two organisations are the Bible Society in Central Africa — an inter-denominational institution specialising in distribution of Christian literature — and the Protestant Centre for Youth, which hosts an institute of theology, a number of private schools, and a conference room.
Twenty-nine boxes of Bibles were torn and scattered on the ground, and four computers and printers and other furniture were taken. An estimated $2,000 in cash was stolen from the Bible Society office.
”This is an unfortunate event because this place belongs to God”, the Bible Society’s managing director, Pastor Gaston Kossingou, told Word Watch Monitor. “The looting committed by Séléka rebels defies God.”
The looting occurred amid tension throughout Bangui that followed the death of a young student, reportedly killed by Séléka rebels in the Gobongo area. Under the pretext of taking out barriers erected by some youths on the highway, Séléka members attacked an undetermined number of properties, including the two religious institutions.
The looting of the Central Africa Bible Society also came on the eve of an official dedication ceremony of the translation of the Bible into Sangho, the main language in the Central African Republic. And it cast a shadow on reconciliation efforts begun a month ago by Christian and Muslim leaders who agreed to work together on solutions to the growing unrest.
Since then, reports say a relative calm has prevailed in Bangui, but the fear of new acts of violence remains real.