|World Watch List Rank||World Watch List Score|
|President Faustin-Archange Touadéra||4.7 Million | 3.4 Christians|
|WWL Rank in 2018||Persecution Level|
|35||Very High Persecution|
Most of the population in Central African Republic is Christian. However, Islamic extremist groups and corruption make life difficult. Fear and violence are a daily reality for believers, and the civil war makes them vulnerable to violence.
Churches are attacked, ransacked, and even burned to the ground. Christian leaders are threatened and believers have had their homes attacked. Thousands of Christian families have been left homeless and are forced to live in camps. They struggle with unemployment and are unable to support their families.
New Christians, especially those who have converted from another religion, may be ostracised or beaten by their family and neighbours to force them to deny Jesus. In areas dominated by Muslims, converts discovered with a Bible may be killed on-the-spot. Believers rarely get to meet with other Christians and lack support.
Bonaventura Noukama lived in Gaga with his wife, Maria*, and two children, Sara and Vincent. He sold peanuts, cooking oil and manioc (tapioca). The day Seleka militants arrived, they dragged Bonaventura 50 metres from his house. Maria watched in horror, helpless to stop the father of her children from being brutally taken from her. He cried for mercy, but they ignored his pleas; the militants beat him, and shot him dead.
Séléka, meaning 'alliance' in the Sangho language, was a movement formed by Central African Republic (CAR) rebel groups and foreign Muslims, discontent with the former president Francois Bozizé and the discrimination faced by the Muslim minority in the nation. Their rise at the end of 2012 has led to unprecedented levels of violence. The group has burnt down entire Christian villages, raped and abducted women, bombed churches, and taken pastors from refugee camps and killed them. If Seleka militants find someone reading a Bible, they often kill them immediately.
In response, 'Anti-Balaka' (meaning 'anti-machete') defence groups have formed. They were originally created to protect their communities against Séléka, but many have begun carrying out revenge attacks on Muslims, creating a cycle of violence. Although many Anti-Balaka members identify themselves as Christians, Christian leaders have strongly condemned their acts of violence.
While Séléka rebels have been driven out of the south of CAR, they are still present in many parts of the north. In Bangui, a growing group of radical Muslims have taken a stronghold known as the PK5 enclave, causing Christians to flee.
The election of President Faustin-Archange Touadéra in February 2016 has given the people a cause to hope for a new beginning. Mr. Touadéra is a Christian who served as prime minister in the pre-crisis administration of President Francois Bozize; but his government is facing many challenges, including reconciling his polarised nation and helping it recover from the continuing humanitarian emergency created by three years of intense crisis. The church, too, has an important role to play in relieving pressures caused by the humanitarian crisis in CAR.
For many Christians, life remains hard. Despite Maria Noukama's suffering, she has been able to say: "I have put all things in God's hands. God is hearing my prayer."
*Name changed for security reasons
Open Doors has been involved with the church in CAR for a number of years. Since 2013 we have been have been supporting the church to provide emotional and physical relief to Christians targeted in the violent uprising by the Islamist rebel group, Seleka. This support includes:
Jun 22, 2018
Author Elizabeth Lane Miller
Adrienne* survived a brutal sexual attack during a conflict with ex-Seleka militants in Central African Republic (CAR), only to be…Read More