Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 210 | Wed 15 May 2013
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC (CAR): SEIZED BY MUSLIM REBELS
By Elizabeth Kendal
As the rebel army, Seleka, advanced towards Bangui, the capital of Central African Republic (CAR), CAR President François Bozizé appealed to France (the colonial power) and the US for help. However, this was to no avail, even though French troops were already in the country. Desperate for support, Bozizé appealed to South African president Jacob Zuma, who did send troops. But on 23 March, after fierce fighting, Seleka defeated the South African Defence Force, paving the way for the rebels to enter Bangui on Sunday 24 March unhindered. Seleka then embarked on a campaign of raping, killing, looting and pillaging. Micopax, the European Union-funded peace-keeping force in CAR, has made no effort to engage the rebels. International Crisis Group (ICG) finds this 'disturbing' and wonders if Micopax has been instructed to stand aside. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), 'One of the first targets was the Bangui Cathedral, where Seleka rebels entered the church, fired in the air, and robbed the worshippers.' Something HRW and ICG both fail to mention is that whereas CAR is a French-speaking, mostly Christian country (76 percent Christian according to Operation World), the rebels who have seized power are Arabic-speaking Muslims.
The rebels, who claim to be liberating CAR from the dictator Bozizé, hail from the Vakaga district, a poor, remote north-east region of CAR bordering Chad and Sudan. Vakaga is the only part of the CAR where Arabic is the common language and Islam the dominant religion. Despite their poverty, the rebels entered Bangui wearing brand new military uniforms, driving brand new pickups and brandishing brand new weapons. Amongst them were janjaweed (gunmen) from Darfur, Sudan, and jihadis from Mali and Northern Nigeria. In a FIDES press release, Church leaders in CAR denounce 'a rebellion characterised by religious extremism'. They describe a systematic and 'planned desecration and destruction of religious Christian buildings, and in particular the Catholic and Protestant churches'. They lament the heavy price the Church is paying, with churches destroyed and 'priests and religious women' attacked.
Archbishop Dieudonné Nzapalainga has written a courageous letter to the self-proclaimed new president, rebel leader Michel Djotodia, listing Seleka's crimes: 'threats, terror, and psychological torture . . . rape of young girls and women, some of whom have committed suicide [and] recruitment of child soldiers'. Observing that Seleka consists 'largely of foreign Muslims and some from the nation', the prelate notes that 'the Muslim population [in Bangui] was largely spared looting', and asks, 'What are the real intentions of this movement against our Christian institutions?' According to one missionary's blog, hospitals and charities have all been looted. 'Rebels do not save anybody or anything,' she writes, 'except for mosques and Muslim traders, who buy the stolen property from them.'
The questions arising out of this crisis are enormous and ugly. Who is funding and equipping Seleka and with what aim? Why did France not intervene in CAR, when it intervened in Ivory Coast (to support Islamic rebels) and in Mali (to fight Islamic rebels)? Why is the US refusing to send aid? Why did the EU-funded Micopax not protect CAR civilians as it is paid to do? In early 2011, Ivory Coast's president Laurent Gbagbo -- who believed in advancing African rather than Western interests -- found himself the victim of regime change at the hands of Islamic forces backed by Western powers pursuing Western 'interests'. Could the same be happening in CAR? President Bozizé had recently signed oil concessions over to Chinese and South African companies. Soon after proclaiming himself president, rebel leader Michel Djotodia promised to 'sort out' CAR's mining and oil contracts. If these contracts are handed to Western powers, then we will have most of our answers. Meanwhile, Seleka has seized control of CAR's extensive diamond industry. The global body of Christ must stand united, demanding truth -- no matter how unpalatable -- and justice. She must speak up for the Church in CAR and remember them in prayer as they have to navigate this crisis.
PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT --
* God will shine light into the darkness so that truth will be revealed; may the Lord himself bring justice, righteousness and liberty to CAR. (Habakkuk 2:6b-14)
'The Lord looks down from heaven and sees the whole human race. From his throne he observes all who live on the earth. He made their hearts, so he understands everything they do.' (Psalm 33:13-15 NLT)
* the body of Christ in the world will stand as one against greed, megalomania, violence, deceit, repression and all manner of evil presently at work in CAR. 'The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.' (John 1:5 ESV)
* the Holy Spirit will draw CAR's Christians to himself, gracing them with faith and prayer, comfort and peace. May he bless, protect and sustain all those who put their faith in him. (Romans 8:31-39)
SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
MUSLIM REBELS SEIZE CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC
On 24 March a rebel army named Seleka seized control of Bangui, capital of Central African Republic (CAR), in an orgy of killing, raping and looting. The rebels are from the Vakaga district, a poor, remote north-east region of CAR bordering Chad and Sudan. Whilst CAR is French-speaking and 76 percent Christian, Vakaga is Arabic-speaking and Muslim. The 'poor' rebels are very well armed and amongst them are gunmen from Darfur, Sudan, and jihadis from Mali and Northern Nigeria. Churches have been destroyed and looted and Christian workers attacked, while the Muslim community of Bangui has been spared. Rebel leader Michel Djotodia has proclaimed himself president. EU peacekeepers did not engage the rebels. French forces (though present) and the US refused to help. Please pray for the Church in CAR.
Elizabeth Kendal is the author of
Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah speaks to Christians today
(Deror Books, Dec 2012)