Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 362 | Wed 22 Jun 2016
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CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC (CAR): CHURCH AT RISK FROM FULANI, SELEKA & LRA
By Elizabeth Kendal
CONTEXT: In March 2013 France and the West stood back and watched as Central African Republic (CAR) -- which is French-speaking and 76 percent Christian (mostly Protestant) -- fell to Seleka, an exceedingly well armed and funded alliance of mostly Arabic-speaking local and international Islamic jihadists. The conquest of the capital, Bangui, was but the climax of Seleka's jihadist advance southward that involved massive looting, destruction, killing and sexual violence against the mostly Christian population. Thousands were killed and around one million displaced. Many Muslims sided with the rebels against their Christian neighbours, shattering decades of peaceful co-existence.
Local village defence militias (the 'anti-balaka') -- originally designed to protect villages from 'balaka' (machete) wielding criminals -- went on the defensive. Though identifying as 'Christian', the anti-balaka are in no way connected to the Church, which denounces their retaliatory violence. Only when anti-balaka militias started driving Seleka jihadists (and many other mostly-immigrant Muslims) out of Bangui, did French and UN peacekeepers intervene. The peace-deal signed in July 2014 was totally meaningless and unenforceable [see RLPB 279, (24 Sept 2014)], leaving the Islamic rebels free to re-organise in the north. Many suspect they plan to partition the country. Consequently, recent eruptions of violence in north-west CAR and in Bangui are cause for concern.
NORTH-WEST CAR: In Ngaoundaye, about 500 km north-west of Bangui, clashes between local anti-balaka militias and Fulani cattle herders backed by former Seleka rebels have claimed at least eleven lives. According to reports, well-armed former-Seleka and Fulani fighters recently attacked the north-western town of Ngaoundaye, killing six, after the local inhabitants refused to let the Fulani lead their cattle through the town. Peacekeepers have been deployed to the region. According to Fides newsagency, the Islamic rebels who attacked Ngaoundaye did not return to their base near Paoua, but withdrew to Kollo on the border with Chad, from where they issued an ultimatum -- pay protection money or expect another attack. Much of the population of Ngaoundaye is now hiding in the bush. According to a priest in the area, tensions are soaring and armed gangs are re-forming. The Church is appealing for more peacekeepers.
BANGUI: Tit-for-tat sectarian violence erupted in Bangui on Sunday 12 June and has escalated to claim several lives. On Sunday 19 June heavily armed Seleka rebels abducted six police officers as gunfire rang out around the capital. The Catholic archbishop of Bangui, Bishop Dieudonne Nzapalainga, has appealed for calm and for help.
|Bishop Nzapalainga in Bangui.|
SOUTH-EAST CAR -- THE LRA RISES: Founded in Uganda in the 1980s, the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) is an occultic militia aided and protected by Sudan's Islamist regime, which has long used it as a proxy against its Christian neighbours. Thriving on insecurity, the LRA will soon also benefit from the withdrawal of Ugandan forces from CAR. The withdrawal of Ugandan forces, announced on 10 June, will give the LRA virtual free reign in predominantly Christian CAR. Buoyed with renewed confidence, the LRA has dramatically escalated its attacks in recent months. This has specifically included kidnappings, with 252 abductions in the first three months of 2016, compared with 113 during all of 2015. It seems the LRA is replenishing its ranks. Last week the LRA kidnapped 29 people from two villages in south-east CAR.
|MAP (source: World Watch Monitor, July 2015)|
edited to show locations of June 2016 clashes/crimes and the
alleged location of LRA leader, Joseph Kony.
PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT
* our sovereign God, the King of kings, will intervene to ensure that Central African Republic receives all the diplomatic, military and humanitarian assistance it needs to resist Islamic jihad, eradicate foreign militants and defeat the LRA, while liberating its captives.
'May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble! May the name of the God of Jacob protect you! May he send you help from the sanctuary and give you support from Zion!' (Psalm 20:1-2 ESV)
* God our merciful and compassionate Father will hear and answer the prayers of his traumatised and fearful children; may he protect and deliver them from all the evil plots of men and the devil.
* the Spirit of God will work powerfully and effectively through all CAR's Christian leaders -- political, civic and religious -- giving them great spiritual wisdom and insight to know how to respond to their country's crisis; may all CAR's Christians, especially Christian leaders, commit themselves to prayer.
'Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.' (Psalm 20:7 ESV)
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* REMINDER: Pray for Muslims during RAMADAN, 6 June to 5 July. See http://pray30days.org/
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SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC CHURCH AT RISK FROM FULANI & LRA
Central African Republic (CAR) is French-speaking and 76 percent Christian. In March 2013 CAR was overrun by foreign-backed, Arabic-speaking Islamic rebels from the north. Thousands were killed and around one million displaced. Only when local non-Muslim militias started driving the rebels (and other Muslims) out of Bangui did France and the UN intervene. A meaningless peace deal was brokered which allowed the rebels to re-organise in the north. Clashes between local residents and rebel-backed Fulani Muslims have erupted in the north-west, while tit-for-tat religious clashes in Bangui have also escalated. Meanwhile, the occultic Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) is rising in the east, replenishing its ranks through a dramatic escalation in kidnappings, ahead of the withdrawal of Ugandan troops. CAR's Christian leaders are appealing for calm and for help. Please pray.
Elizabeth Kendal is the author of TurnBack the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today
(Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat.
Her new book, After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East, (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016) is now available through the publisher and will be available more widely in the coming weeks. Review copies can be requested from Wipf and Stock (USA/international) - OR if in Australia, through their distributor, Morning Star Publishing.