Three-quarters of the population of Central African Republic are Christian (that’s 3.7 million believers) but they are still vulnerable to persecution.
The Central African Republic has seen near-constant conflict and fighting since 2013. Much of the country is occupied by various armed militia groups, who are responsible for a range of human rights abuses. Many of these groups – whether Islamic extremist or otherwise – specifically target Christians, so life is constantly uncertain for believers in areas under militia control.
Christian leaders who have publicly denounced the violence have been threatened; church buildings have been burned and ransacked. The conflict has resulted in the displacement of thousands of Christians who have lost their homes and livelihood and are now forced to live in displacement camps. Many persecuted believers were among the most vulnerable when the Covid-19 pandemic reached the Central African Republic, because of the financial and social exclusion they already experience.
In addition to the insecurity and violence that all Christians suffer, converts to Christianity from Islam face persecution from their immediate family members. The local community will often ostracise Christian converts and might also try to force them to renounce Christianity through violence.
“If I should one day meet the Muslim man who shot the grenades at my church, I will not be angry. I will greet him and say, ‘God forgives you, and He wants me to forgive you too.’” Jeovani
Jeovani was only nine when his church was attacked by Muslim extremists. The congregation was full, and the pastor was beginning the service when two mortar shells burst through the roof. Seven people were killed and at least 33 more injured.
Jeovani survived – but he had to have both legs amputated. At first, he had nightmares that the rebels were coming back to attack his family – but he still had big dreams for the future: “I would like to go back to school,” Jeovani said. “One day I want to be a civil servant and take care of my family.”
The attack was a few years ago. Now Jeovani has artificial legs, paid for by you. “I almost look like other kids – I can stand on my legs without using the sticks,” he says. And amazingly, he has forgiven his attackers: “If I should one day meet the Muslim man who shot the grenades at my church, I will not be angry. I will greet him and say, ‘God forgives you, and He wants me to forgive you too. You do not know what you have done to me, but I forgive you.’ And once I have told him that, I will never be angry with him.”
Praise God, Central African Republic has fallen ten spots from last year’s World Watch List. A key reason for this is a reduction in pressure on Christians in their private lives. This could be because many of the rebel groups who target Christians also fight each other. But this doesn’t mean Christians are safe from persecution and discrimination. Unfortunately, violence against believers remains extreme, making faith in Jesus a dangerous prospect.
Please keep praying for your brothers and sisters in Central African Republic. Your gifts and prayers make an enormous difference to those following Jesus no matter the cost.
Open Doors works through local partners to support believers in CAR through persecution survival and discipleship training, economic empowerment projects and trauma care.
God, we come before You to ask You to sustain and spare our family – Your children – in Central African Republic. We pray against violence; bring Your peace to the country and the hearts of all those engaged in fighting. We pray for believers who are forced to keep their faith secret; grow their faith even as they follow You behind closed doors.
Your support helps persecuted Christians continue to courageously follow Jesus.
Together, we can reach those where persecution hits hardest.