Wednesday, May 7, 2014

RLPB 259. Central African Republic (CAR): may God empower the peacemakers

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 259 | Wed 07 May 2014

CAR: MAY GOD EMPOWER THE PEACEMAKERS
plus: update and comment on the Borno abductions (Nigeria).
By Elizabeth Kendal

In early 2013 the Central African Republic (CAR) government desperately appealed for help as bands of local and international Islamic jihadis backed by Sudan and Iran advanced on the capital, Bangui. But President Bozize had recently signed oil concessions with China, leading the US and former colonial power France to think that regime change in Bangui might serve their interests. They therefore refused assistance and let CAR -- which is French-speaking and 70 percent Christian -- fall to Arabic-speaking local and international Islamic rebels. Only when CAR was in total chaos did France send in peacekeepers. Contrary to reports, the conflict was religious from the very beginning. Likewise, the Seleka Muslim forces did not kill and burn 'indiscriminately'; rather, they targeted Christians and spared Muslims. Compounding the tragedy, many Muslims betrayed their Christian neighbours and welcomed Seleka, anticipating that it would usher in an Islamic order wherein Muslims would be privileged simply by virtue of being Muslim. Some Muslims even joined in the looting of their Christian neighbours. Consequently, all trust has been shattered. With nobody coming to their aid, the traditional village self-defence units known as 'anti-balaka' went on the offensive to liberate CAR from the scourge of Seleka and exact revenge. Whilst Church leaders, with support from some local Muslim clerics, have been leading the call for reconciliation, leaderless rogue anti-balaka and ex-Seleka militias are out of control, making it impossible to break the cycle of violence.

[For full background see Religious Llberty Monitoring, label 'Central African Republic (CAR)'

As was noted in RLPB 258 (30 April) Seleka rebels are still killing and plundering throughout the centre and north-west of CAR. Around 100 people were killed in the past week in dozens of villages across north-west CAR close to the border with Chad. The fighting commenced on 1 May, allegedly after armed men, some reportedly in uniform, plundered Seleka's food reserves. According to the head of the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Amy Martin, several armed groups are operating in the border area, including Seleka fighters who have formed alliances with armed Fulani herdsmen. Though it is not clear who is committing the violence, the deputy prefect in Markounda, Lucian Mbaigoto, said the killers were speaking Arabic and Fulani. Everaldo de Souza, a priest in Dekoa, told Reuters that ex-Seleka rebels had killed at least seven people in three nearby villages, though he expected the death toll to be much higher. In Mala, terrified citizens sought shelter in the Catholic church until it too was targeted. Yetina Isaac, a resident of Markounda, described how rebels entered homes, killed the occupants and set fire to the houses, burning the frail and the dead. She also reported having seen children 'thrown alive into the fire'.

Muslims in the north are calling for partition and for a separate state. Apart from Sudan and Iran and possibly some other Islamic states, there is no support for that as most recognise that such an entity would simply become a base for international Islamic mercenaries operating mostly at the behest of Sudan and Iran. While Seleka violence is receiving little media coverage, news of 'Christian ethnic cleansing of Muslims' is rife, not just in non-Muslim media, but in Muslim media. For example, Iranian media is warning Muslims that a 'Christian' genocide of Muslims is underway, with echoes of Rwanda. This creates a seriously dangerous climate for Christians. Foreign militants should be expelled, rebels must be disarmed and leaderless rogue anti-balaka need to be reined in or the situation could become much worse. CAR desperately needs peace.

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL --

* fill CAR's Church leaders and evangelists with a fresh out-pouring of his Holy Spirit so they will speak with boldness and authority and lead the nation to Jesus Christ for transformative grace to make peace and reconciliation possible.

* pour out his Holy Spirit in generous abundance on the citizens of CAR, opening the eyes of the blind, unstopping the ears of the deaf, healing the traumatised and freeing those held captive to pain and rage. (Luke 4:16-21)

* work powerfully so that this nation, which has been invaded and ravaged by enemies, betrayed and abandoned by friends and torn asunder from within, will seek grace and healing from him who is both willing and able to save.

'With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.' (Matthew 19:26 ESV)

By awesome deeds you answer us with righteousness, O God of our salvation, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas; the one who by his strength established the mountains, being girded with might; who stills the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, the tumult of the peoples, so that those who dwell at the ends of the earth are in awe at your signs. (Psalm 65:5-8a ESV)
-----------------------------------------------

UPDATE & COMMENT ON THE BORNO, NIGERIA, ABDUCTIONS
-- updating RLPBs 257 & 258

In the early hours of Monday 5 May, Boko Haram struck again, abducting eight girls aged 12 to 15 from Warabe village on the outskirts of the Christian enclave of Gwoza town, Borno, near the Sambisa forest and the border with Cameroon. While the Borno abductions have captured international headlines, it is important to realise that the phenomenon is neither new nor unique. In Raqqa, Syria, young girls including Christians are also being seized and forcibly married to Salafi jihadis (see RLPB 250, 4 March). [Salafis imitate Muhammad who took women as war booty and slaves and gave his followers permission to have sex with any woman their right hand possessed (Qur'an, Sura 23:5,6).] As noted in RLPB 258 (30 April), thousands of Christian Pakistani and Coptic (Egyptian) girls are trafficked across religious lines every year, being abducted, converted and married to Muslim men with complicity from local police, courts and government officials all working to hasten the decline of Christianity through the removal of its child-bearers. Even if these Pakistani and Egyptian girls manage to escape they cannot get their religious identity restored because the Islamic state will not permit apostasy (leaving Islam). According to Sharia Law, a Muslim woman may only marry a Muslim man, leaving the forcibly converted girl with no other option than to flee and risk her chances as a refugee. This is what contemporary persecution looks like -- violent and life-destroying. Please pray for the persecuted!


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
------------------------------------------------------------
MAY GOD EMPOWER THE PEACEMAKERS FOR CAR


Central African Republic (CAR) is trapped in violence. While rogue anti-Muslim militias known as 'anti-balaka' are driving Muslims out of Bangui, ex-Seleka Islamic rebels continue to terrorise the centre and north-west. On 26 April ex-Seleka militants massacred 16 people (including three staff) at a medical clinic in north-west CAR. In the past week some 100 people have been killed across dozens of villages in the north-west close to the border with Chad. The killers, who were said to speak Arabic and Fulani, committed appalling abuses, killing civilians, burning homes and reportedly throwing live children into the fires. Iranian media are falsely reporting genocide of Muslims, saying that Christians are killing Muslims with impunity. Unless there is peace, the situation will deteriorate significantly. Please pray for CAR and its Church.

-------------------------------------------------------------

Elizabeth Kendal is the author of
Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah speaks to Christians today
(Deror Books, Dec 2012)