Central African Republic pastor's plea to UK Christians: 'Please pray for us'
A church pastor who narrowly avoided being murdered by rebels in the Central African Republic has called on the international community to continue praying for an immediate and peaceful resolution to the ongoing conflict.
The CAR has been beset by violence since Islamist extremist group Séléka drove out President Francois Bozizé in a coup on 24 March 2013. Although the group were officially disbanded, they have continued to target towns and villages across the country, which has inspired an opponent faction to rise up under the name anti-Balaka.
Sectarian violence between the two groups has quickly spread throughout the nation, displacing over 700,000 civilians while a quarter of a million have fled to neighbouring Cameroon, Chad and Congo. Aid agencies say a humanitarian crisis has left over half the population, around 2.5 million people, in desperate need of food, water and sanitation.
Tearfund is among the charities working to provide these basics, and has set up a camp at FATEB evangelical theological college in the capital city of Bengui to provide refuge for around 1,600 victims of the violence.
Seventy-year-old pastor, the Reverend Maurice Ndougou is one of those now living in the college, after he narrowly escaped being killed by rebels who swore to avenge the murder of one of their own men in his area.
A number of militia arrived at his church, but pastor Ngougou was able to run to the college with his family to safety.
"The next day, the men came back to my house and set about ransacking the place. They took everything with them. Now my house is empty," he explains.
"Nevertheless, God protected me and my family, and for me that is the most important thing."
Speaking to Tearfund representatives, he urged his fellow brothers and sisters in the UK to pray for his nation.
Another of those benefitting from the aid provided by Tearfund is Angeline, who was raped during an attack by men who also murdered her husband in front of her. She fled to Bangui with her three children.
"I was trying to find something to eat for my family when I heard about this food distribution at the college site," she says, before noting that she cannot return home because the journey is too dangerous.
Thousands more have been given access to clean water in Bangui, which is a vital step in engaging with those in need.
"Water is life," says Getruve Sango, whose family was forced to walk more than 200 miles after her house was burnt down by rebels.
"Even if we don't have anything to eat, at least there is water and that gives us strength. I am hopeful for my children, as we can get water easily now."
Though aid is being given, it's a constant struggle for agencies to meet the growing need and as the one year anniversary of the crisis approaches the people of the CAR are more desperate than ever for a peaceful resolution.
"Today my greatest need and my dream is that the war will end," says Adeline, another victim of the crisis.
"I want peace and I dream that everybody will be able to go back to their homes."
To donate to Tearfund's work in the CAR, click here.