Tearfund has highlighted the central importance of the church for people fearing for their lives in the Central African Republic (CAR). The country, which shares borders with Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan, has been torn apart by decades of conflict which has seen thousands killed.
With violence flaring once again in June this year, a further 100,000 people have been forced to leave their homes.
Daniel Zuma, deacon of an evangelical church in Pissa, Lobaye district, was caught up in violence on a visit to the local mayor’s office, when shooting broke out. He told Tearfund how a Muslim person saved him by speaking to the shooter in Arabic. In the wake of the event, he said the church preached forgiveness.
Mr Zuma commented the church had a ‘vital role’ in tackling the effects of the conflict. He said: ‘The church can be a peace actor, show love and unity. The main thing we did was to make sure all the churches preached to believers not to seek revenge or confront these people. We went out and asked believers to comfort those who had lost people, and to reconcile with Muslims, not to seek revenge.
‘On the cross, the first word Jesus said was, “Forgive them, for they know not what they do”, so I want people here to forgive each other; this is the most important thing’.
Official statistics put approximately 80 per cent of the population in the Central African Republic as Christian, with 15 per cent identifying as Muslim.
According to Tearfund, violent factions previously understood to be divided down religious lines are in reality more complex, with other factors leading to the formation of new alliances and further fighting.
Tearfund is continuing to work in CAR, one of the poorest countries in the world. With the help of UK Aid Match, the charity has launched a fundraising campaign to help the people of CAR. The country requires urgent humanitarian assistance, with 2.3 million people, almost half the population, in great need.
The UK government has pledged to match pound for pound every donation made by the public as part of Tearfund’s Aid Match programme.