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BWA appeals for help for Central African Republic

The Baptist World Alliance (BWA) is appealing for assistance to the Central African Republic (CAR) due to widespread suffering after rebels overthrew the government in March 2013.

The request comes after Nicolas Aimé Singa-Gbazia, president of the Association of Baptist Churches of Central African Republic told the BWA that there have been 'great tribulations against the church of Christ in general and Baptists in particular.', and warned of the possibility of a civil war. Singa-Gbazia asserted that 'churches and the interests of the church are the target of the new masters,' of the nation.

Hundresd of thousands of people have fled their homes as rebels-turned-bandits, mostly Muslim, battle Christian self-defence units following the coup in March.

CARThe BWA sent an initial sum of US$20,000 for relief that assisted 1,800 people with tents, food and hygiene supplies. 'We have helped some families cultivate small gardens. They will soon eat vegetables that will be harvested in these small gardens,' a report sent to the BWA on the assistance read.

The offensive against the government and civilian population began in December 2012 when Seleka forces, a loose coalition of four rebel groups, began a violent trek from the northeast region of CAR, seizing several towns. On March 24, 2013, Seleka rebels took the capital city of Bangui by force. President Bozize fled the country and Michel Djotodia, the rebel commander and self-declared president, suspended the constitution and dissolved the national assembly.

A United States Department of State report said nearly 400,000 people were internally displaced and approximately 68,000 new refugees were forced into the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the Republic of the Congo, Cameroon, and Chad. The total number of CAR refugees in neighbouring countries is now more than 220,000. The report said hospitals, schools, and warehouses were looted and entire villages destroyed. Displaced people have little to no access to clean water, schools, or health services. Food security is a growing concern as many farmers missed the planting season due to the violence.

The violence escalated in the latter part of 2013. In November, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon noted that the security situation in the country remained precarious with government authority nonexistent outside Bangui. Jan Eliasson, the UN deputy secretary general said that the CAR was "...descending into complete chaos." The UN warned the country was at risk of spiraling into genocide with reports from Bangui of widespread violence taking place. Several hundred people were killed in December alone, including six Chadian soldiers of the African Union peacekeeping force.

Singa-Gbazia said more than 3,000 people have died in the conflicts; churches, including Baptist places of worship, have been burned; church social outreach projects have been destroyed; and women, including the wives of pastors, have been sexually assaulted in front of their families. 'Whole villages were looted and burned. It's chaos,' Singa-Gbazia declared. He expressed special concern for those who have fled into the jungle who are in danger of exposure to diseases and wild animals.

'If nothing is done urgently we will inevitably evolve towards a civil war (Christians against Muslims) and no one can predict the result. This may be genocide because all the signs are visible,' Singa-Gbazia warned.

Reports suggest that many Seleka fighters were from other countries, including Chad and Sudan, and preyed on the civilian population outside of the capital Bangui. Seleka's targeted violence has created inter-religious tensions in a country where Christian and Muslim populations lived in relatively peaceful co-existence. The US State Department report said Seleka's actions 'have given rise to primarily Christian self-defense groups that have sought to kill both Seleka fighters and CAR Muslims, creating a dangerous dynamic of inter-religious hatred and tension that risks spiraling out of control.'

There are four BWA member organizations in CAR with a total membership of more than 180,000 in more than 770 churches.

Donations may be made online at www.bwanet.org or mailed to:

Baptist World Aid
c/o Baptist World Alliance
405 N. Washington Street
Falls Church, VA 22046

Picture credit: IRIN
Baptist Times, 11/01/2014
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