The demonstration flowed through the center of town. Bodies of those killed during the previous night were carried along to accentuate the point that international security forces were far from making this city a place of peace. This time it was primarily Muslims protesting the indiscriminate killing of their kind by the Antibalaka—a self-proclaimed vigilante group committed to ridding Central Africa Republic (CAR) of Islam. Although the international media consistently identifies the Antibalaka as Christians fighting again Muslims, nothing could be farther from the truth. Claiming powers from witch-doctor hexes, these animistic-background groups believe they are impervious to the bullets (bals in French) from AK-47 rifles. Thus their name: Anti-bal-AK. Meanwhile most Protestant churches remain proponents of non-violence and peace.
|One of the many armored personnel carriers used by |
French troops on mission in CAR
Because of the demonstration, Bertin, director of ACATBA*, was late in picking us up for our ride to the airport. But then, our Air France flight was also late—like a whole day late! Problems with non-functioning runway lights yesterday forced the flight to divert to Yaounde, Cameroon instead. So finally, a day later, I’m seated onboard and glad to finally be going home, even though I know I’ve missed all my on-going connections in Paris. There’s something about spending so many years in Africa that helps one appreciate and live out the meaning of the popular phrase, “Il faut patienté” (You must be patient.)
|Area of downtown Bangui where demonstrations happened|
the next day
As I leave this past week in CAR behind, I wonder what the future will bring this troubled country. I’ve experienced the results of a dysfunctional government that can’t even fix street potholes in its capital let alone provide basic services for its people. I’ve seen the discouragement in the eyes of those weary of wanton killing that still occurs somewhere almost every day. I’ve talked to national church leaders who can hardly talk when they recount stories of churches burned, pastors executed and their wives raped. But I’ve also witnessed the resilience of people whose faith in God gives them hope to endure.
I’m impressed that ACATBA is “hanging in there” committed to Bible translation for the forty-some tribal languages of CAR. And I’m even more touched by their desire to add elements of community care to their village translation work—like offering basic health services or simple water projects. As Bertin says, “How can we only be interested in bringing them the Gospel message if we are not also willing to demonstrate Gospel action?” He also believes this is an important way to help people regain credibility in Christianity, especially for those who are actively rejecting their faith believing God did not protect their loved ones during the atrocities of this civil war.
With this sort of determination to press on, I’m so glad ACATBA will have the on-going support and assistance of Wycliffe Associates as expressed through several practical projects that Africa Area Director, Al Hawthorne hopes to provide. And I count it a privilege to be a part of that help by continuing to provide organizational training, mentoring and encouragement for Bertin, his team and his board of directors. God willing, during this next year, I will help them develop a church relations strategy, create a PR video and possibly even accompany Bertin on a fund-raising trip abroad to develop some new donor relationships for the future.
More than anything, I’d love to see those seeds of hope still present in these CAR friends blossom into continued fruitful ministry for many years to come.
|Myself with Bertin, director of ACATBA|
* ACATBA stands for Association Centreafricaine pour Traduction de la Bible et Alphabetization