Murderous militants are 'precious in God's sight', says pastor

AP Photo/Jerome DelayLight shines through a cross on the Catholic church in Carnot, Central African Republic where Muslim refugees have taken shelter.

As Human Rights Watch reports an escalating conflict in the Central African Republic, one Christian pastor wrote of the need to treat the militants as Jesus would.

The pastor, based in the capital, Bangui, had a treacherous journey while travelling across the country to deliver food and medical supplies. The team that had gone ahead of him was robbed of the supplies and taken into the bush to be killed.

Writing to his prayer supporters, the pastor said: "The person who had robbed our brothers and was about to kill them, was himself killed by African MISCA peace-keeping forces. I could not rejoice at the news, as his soul too was precious in God's sight."

Human Rights watch said today that the conflict is escalating in eastern parts of the country.

The situation in CAR is often described as sectarian violence between Christian militants known as the anti-balaka, and the Muslim Séléka, who were originally part of a coup against President Bozizé in March 2013. The Séléka rebels were themselves ousted from power in January 2014.

But both groups have only loose ties with their religious affiliations, and Muslim and Christian leaders from CAR have united to condemn the conflict.

When the Christian pastor delivering aid heard of the death of one of the militants, he felt convicted that he had not shared the gospel with the people who, together with the Séléka, are responsible for the brutal violence in his homeland.

He said: "Unfortunately in my broken state I had not been telling these anti-balaka people about the gospel.

"I have to admit that it was not easy to accept that kind of treatment and humiliation from them without reacting – but then what would Jesus do in my place, he who, when ill-treated, did not open his mouth?"

He added: "I did warn them, though, not to be fighting against God – at which, they all suddenly scattered."

The cycle of revenge attacks started in December 2012, but the latest outbreak of violence began in May this year.

At least 27 people were killed on July 7 in an attack by suspected Séléka rebels on thousands of displaced people sheltering at St Joseph's Cathedral and the adjacent Bishop's residence in Bambari.

Long-term underdevelopment makes it difficult to know how many have died since the conflict began.

An estimated 2.2 million people of CAR's 4.6 million population are believed to be in need of humanitarian aid. By June almost 140,000 people had sought refuge in neighbouring Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Chad and the Republic of Congo, according to the United Nations.