The following letter is written by Pierre, my dear friend in the Central African Republic. He’s under tremendous pressure, his kids are traumatised, lots of his friends have been killed, people are looking to him as the leader, and he manages to write such stunningly wise and gracious words. These have been translated from French. It’s well worth reading in its entirety. You will be humbled by his attitude. And then please continue praying, it’s definitely making a difference at this critical time in the nation’s history. Here goes:
Beloved in the Lord, greetings !
We do not know how to thank you for all the prayers you are raising to God for the people of the CAR in general and the Christian population in particular. The SELEKA tsunami has swept over the entire country excepting only the farthest eastern regions (Obo et Zemio), where there are Ugandan and American troops in pursuit of Joseph Koni’s Lord’s Resistance Army and also standing guard at the Chinko river to stop the rebels getting across. We have not lost sight of the exhortation of the apostle Peter, ‘’knowing that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings’’ (1 Pt 5 :9b). From the explosions in Boston to the attack on the French embassy in Lybia, also including the one that was foiled in Canada, the islamists can be seen as of now to be active on all fronts, plunging hundreds of families into mourning everywhere they go.
In the CAR, we have a tradition of different religions co-existing peacefully together. In the same family or household you could see people holding to different religious convictions without family unity being compromised in any way. This state of affairs will certainly change following the actions of the rebels, which may well lead to social tensions and religious conflicts.
We know that all that is happening is primarily spiritual. Every religion has its own call to mission and self-propagation – every Muslim, for example, is obligated to play his part in bringing the world into submission to Allah, whether by political power or religious supremacy. The Christians of the CAR, who have never troubled to go and evangelise the Muslim tribes in the north, like the Goula, Rounga and Youla, now have the responsibility of bringing salvation to these invaders, more barbaric than the Vikings, who suddenly are all too easily within reach. God is definitely judging his church in CAR – he chastises those he loves (Heb 12 :7-11), and Christians need to know that he loves Muslims and wants them saved as well.
It was over fifteen years ago that our mission movement Nations En Marche (NEM) first began appealing to the conscience of the church in the matter of evangelising the ‘greens’ or ‘cousins’ through the 30-day periods of prayer that we held each year in accordance with the lunar calendar. Personally when I had the vision, I knew nothing about evangelising our cousins. I went into a long time of prayer, after which first the imam in our part of town and then a lady ‘cousin’ who would later be converted came to see me. Then, during a seminar in a church in Miskine, a woman came and asked for prayer. The next day she came back to testify that she was a Muslim and that, following the prayer the day before, she had been healed of an illness that she had been suffering from for years. She asked to be baptised, These testimonies reinforced my faith and opened the way to ministry among our cousins.
Through much prayer and much love, we saw many results among them. Then, nearly two years ago, at the approach of Ramadan, the murder of two children by a Muslim businessman led to riots in the capital and the destruction of a number of mosques. In a circular letter I invited Christians to contribute to the rebuilding of these, both as a sign of compassion on their part and also as a way of disassociating ourselves from the perpetrators. After Saul approved the murder of Stephen, if the Christians instead of praying for him had demanded that he be put to death himself, then the church would have lost one of its greatest apostles. Unfortunately my call was not heeded. In our part of town a month ago the first reprisals, which drove all the men from their homes to spend the night in the open, were motivated by the destruction of the local mosque those two years previously. The ‘cousin’ never forgets a wrong done to him. He bears with it when he is in a position of weakness, but as soon as he has the upper hand he takes vengeance. Certain of the young people in the city are experiencing this now.
In CAR, the cousins have long been trying without success to win the country for Islam. It is also the only country in this sub-region of the continent where they have a radio programme propagating their religion ; and yet, despite all contextualisation, there was no great number of conversions. NGOs and social works did not produce much in the way of results either. Primary, secondary and other schools were set up, but did not have any great impact. Last year’s legislative elections undid the good results for them of the ones in 2005, when they had 52 deputies out of a total of 108 in the National Assembly. It was a case of having to go up a gear. Now, they have executive, legislative and military power. The jihadists are establishing themselves. Documents written by the current man in power, explaining the reasons for the rebellion, could not be clearer concerning their ambitions for the islamisation of the country and the imposition of sharia. Inshallah !
The first and greatest commandment is to love God, while the second is to love your neighbour (Mt 22 :37-39). That neighbour may well be a ‘green’ or a ‘cousin’. We must avoid confusing our own legitimate interests with the priorities of the Kingdom of God. Unceasingly, we have sent you sad news reports of all the atrocities being committed by SELEKA rebels. The world has remained indifferent, but as one answer to prayer, the Deputy General Secretary of the UN has come to Bangui, while the International Court of Justice has exerted itself so far as to express concern. We must never condone evil, while at the same time keeping our hearts from all animosity. We do not cry for vengeance but for justice. Has not the Lord said, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay ?’
In 1997, at the time of the mutinies under the PATASSE regime, our part of town was considered pro-mutiny and treated accordingly. Chadian MISSAB soldiers had received orders to go from house to house and execute every male above the age of 12. My house was ransacked, and I only just escaped with my life. I was a fugitive in my own country, had to stay with a family elsewhere, could not see my children. At night I had nightmares that caused me to jump out of bed in fright. Did I really have to love these people, who were threatening my very existence ? Yes, I did. When the executioners hammered the nails into Jesus’ hands and feet, they could hear with their own ears his prayer, ‘Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing’ (Lk 23 :34).
We have seen God’s love for the ‘greens’, men and women saved by the blood of Jesus. We have seen some of them suffer persecution from family members. Some have given up, but others have persevered.
A week before SELEKA entered Bangui, we were praying and preparing for a big evangelistic outreach to take place on Easter Sunday and for the annual Pygmy conference in Bobélé due to start the following day. This time of prayer was scheduled to end 24 March, the same date that President BOZIZE was overthrown. Coincidence or preparation? The same week, I was invited to speak in a church on the subject of the rapture. By way of an accompanying theme I had also prepared to speak on the Lord’s return, the resurrection, the marriage of the Lamb and the great tribulation. I put to the church the question, whether it was more appropriate to speak of the tribulation, rather than the rapture. Was that a prophetic word? I mention all this, to show how the sovereign God was preparing us for what was going to happen. Whatever turn events may take, he is always in control.
We pray that he will enable our brothers elsewhere in the sub-region to learn of what is going on here. We will continue to keep you informed as well, in order to direct your prayer and intercession. Hard times are before us, with a humanitarian crisis looming. Everything has been destroyed and needs rebuilding from scratch ; who will pay for it? Many families have lost everything ; who will help them? People have not been able to cultivate their land this year ; who will give us food? Who will help with medications and other essentials?
Our eyes are turned to God, who never disappoints, who declares : ‘’Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you’’. (Heb 13 :5).
May he bless you.