An armed attack in the northwestern Central African Republic (CAR) left more than 50 residents dead and many more wounded. The massacres took place in several villages near the town of Paoua, not far from the Chad border.
This is the biggest single loss of life in CAR since the country’s government and 14 armed groups signed a peace agreement earlier this year in February.
Throughout sub-Saharan Africa, the church is on fire with persecution. While the impact on Christians in these attacks is not known, Christians are a majority in the country. Out of a total national population of 4.7 million, believers make up more than half (3.5 million). In the country, Christians are facing intensifying pressure from Muslim extremists. CAR continues to be mired in anarchy.
In late May, the Muslim-dominated 3R group, (which stands for Return, Reclamation and Reconciliation) attacked a number of villages in the northwest region of Pahoua, seeking revenge for the killing of an ethnic Peul man. The 3R group was formed in late 2015 to protect the Peul population who are mostly Muslim cattle herders. The group is led by Sidiki Abass, one of three special military advisors to CAR Prime Minister Simplice Sarandji.
In a statement published by the medical charity Doctors Without Borders (known by its French initials MSF), survivors shared details of the heinous attack.
“Gunmen wearing military fatigues and armed with Kalashnikovs (automatic rifles) arrived in my village and asked to see the community leaders to organize a general meeting,” says Alphonse, a survivor who was injured by gunshots and treated by MSF teams.
“The people then gathered under a mango tree,” he said.
“Then they started to tie us up. They tore my shirt to tie my arms,” Alphonse continued. “They piled us on top of each other, then started shooting. It felt like it was raining bullets.”
Major violation of Peace Agreement
The attack violates the peace agreement signed on February 5 by the CAR government, 14 armed groups, with the support of the African Union, the UN and the countries of the region.
The agreement was meant to bring stability to the CAR that has seen violence since 2013 when mainly Muslim Selaka rebels ousted then-President David Dacko–prompting retaliation from mostly Christian militia.
Over the past six years, repeated attacks and violence against civilians have left 2.9 million people, or half of the country, in need of humanitarian assistance. Thousands have died because of the unrest in the diamond- and gold-producing country, and a fifth of the 4.5 million population have fled their homes.
Praying with the church in CAR
“We’re calling on supporters around the world to pray for the Lord’s abundant grace and mercy to be at work in all who suffered loss in these attacks,” says Global Christian Relief CEO David Curry. “We call on the authorities of CAR to swiftly investigate the attack and bring those responsible to justice and on the UN forces to do everything in its power to prevent further violence.
“We also urge the international community to use their influence to help ensure that momentum towards peace is sustained and that all parties honor the peace agreement signed in February this year.”
- Please pray that these incidents wouldn’t lead to retaliation that would derail peace efforts.
- Pray for the Lord to be at work in these circumstances, drawing people to Himself.
- Pray for wisdom, protection and courage for the church as they respond to security challenges and interact with the government in search of peaceful solutions to years of conflict.
*Representative image used for security reasons