Central African Republic: Bible Society Work Resumes in Troubled Central African Republic

Unable to return to their office because it is in an unsafe area of Bangui, Bible Society staff are temporarily working out of an office at FATEB - the Bangui Evangelical School of Theology. Earlier this month, they met for the first time in weeks to share their experiences of the conflict and to discuss how to restart Bible work.

Executive Secretary Sylvain Ndjendolé started the meeting by reading Acts 27:13-29 to encourage the staff.

"There are so many parallels between the situation we are facing in CAR and the storm that Paul went through on his journey to Rome," he told them. "Like those travellers through the storm, the gentle voice of the Lord is calling out to us, 'Don't be afraid. Keep your eyes on God.'"

Flee their homes

Each staff member then spoke about what had happened to them since the outbreak of conflict on December 5. They described gunfire, atrocities, house to house searches and fear. Every one of them had to flee their homes. Some have returned home, others are still sheltering in refugee camps or relatives' houses, unsure if they have a house to return to.

"We had to flee our home on Christmas day to take shelter amongst some rocks on the hills behind us," said Literacy Co-ordinator Jean Noël Ndiba.

"There were so much gunfire and killing in my suburb that I fled to my daughter's house in the south of the city," said Secretary Paulette Edane. "I feel afraid all the time and I'm haunted by the horrors I have seen. I have no idea what has happened to my house."

Hid in the undergrowth

"We hid in the undergrowth near our home and watched as it was looted for the second time in three months," shared Accountant Agathe Yaramandji. "They loaded all our possessions into our two vehicles, and drove away. Our three-year-old daughter was ill with typhoid so we went to the refugee camp at the Boy Rabé monastery, where we finally managed to get some medication for her. Her health is still fragile so we had to leave the camp and are living with some friends here at FATEB."

The Society's security guard, Ferdinand Kada, described how he had to climb through the ceiling to hide when the conflict broke out on December 5.

"The Bible Society office is close to the National Assembly, which is where the fighting was most intense," he said. "It didn't take long before armed militia broke into our office, and neighbouring offices, to ransack them. Since then we haven't been able to go there for long because the danger of attack is very real. Sometimes, militia climb into the mango trees near the office and ambush passers-by. They hunt people like animals. I've never seen anything like it before."

Mr Ndjendolé and his family also had to flee their home. He described how he and his children lay on the floor of the house as bullets were fired across their neighourhood.

Children traumatised

"God in his goodness has spared my family but the children are still traumatised," he shared with the staff.

Mr Ndjendolé says that, despite what everyone has been through, the staff are grateful to God for his protection and for the prayers of Bible Societies and their supporters across the world.

"The staff morale is good and they have a real desire to get back to work," he notes. "The day after our meeting, we set up a distribution table outside FATEB, so people can get Scriptures again. And We are trying to make contact with our distributors in other parts of the country.

"We are also looking for new premises in a more secure area of the city. We are so grateful that FATEB has lent us an office where we can store our equipment and Scriptures safely, but we need to find somewhere more permanent.

"Please pray that we will find a good location, that our staff will stay safe and that we will get the equipment and support we need to replace the things we lost when we were looted. Pray also for peace to return to our country."

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