By BosNewsLife Africa Service
BANGUI, CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC (BosNewsLife)– Three pastors and a Bible translator are among those killed by Muslim fighters in escalating sectarian violence that has devastated the Central African Republic, local Christians and investigators confirmed Friday.
On December 5, Seleka rebels reportedly entered the compound of the ELIM church in Bangui, the capital, shooting dead Pastor Jean-Louis Makamba, 48, and one of his sons in their own home, said Open Doors, an advocacy group supporting persecuted Christians.
“Seleka are now seeking out his widow and nine children, who have fled and are in hiding,” the group added.
Soon after, 33-year-old Pastor Elisha Zama of the Evangelical Church of the Brethren and employee of the Central African Association for Translation and Literacy, was killed while hiding with others at the Amitié hospital in Bangui, Open Doors said.
Seleka rebels reportedly opened fire on those inside, killing several patients and Pastor Elisha, who leaves behind a widow and five children.
Pastor Raymond Doui, 46, of the Community of Independent Baptist Churches (CEBI) died at around 11.00 pm local time, December 5, “when Seleka gunned him down at his house in one of Bangui’s suburbs,” according to Open Doors investigators.
The graduate of the Bible Institute of Sibut and third year student at the Evangelical Faculty of Bangui (FATEB) leaves behind a wife and 11 children, Christians said.
Also killed in separate attacks was Wycliffe Bible translator Elisee Zama. Local Christians said he was gunned down last week in Bangui while trying to escape the escalating violence there.
“I know that without your prayers, we could not continue to stand here,” said Bertin Oundagnon-Basso, director of Wycliffe’s local organization in published remarks.
“Pray especially for the family of…Zama, who was translating the Bible into the Mandja language and was in the process of taking training at the Evangelical Theology Seminary of Bangui to earn a degree in translation,” he said. “He leaves behind a widow and children.”
The attack underscored the dangers faced by workers linked to Wycliffe Bible Translators, which has been translating Scriptures in more than 70 countries.
Christian investigators say many Christians have been persecuted in the Central African Republic since Muslims took over the government earlier this year. They looted, raped and killed for months, with religious Christians forming vigilante groups in response. The violence prompted France to intervene.
President Francois Hollande said earlier this week that France’s intervention in its former colony was dangerous but vital to avoid more bloodshed, during a visit to shore up morale after two elite French soldiers were killed.
Hollande flew into the curfew-bound capital Bangui from Johannesburg after attending a memorial service for South African peace icon Nelson Mandela, news reports said.
The president held talks with Michel Djotodia, the country’s first Muslim president who led the Seleka rebellion that began 12 months ago.
Hollande, who also met religious leaders, has accused the former rebel leader of doing nothing to stop the sectarian violence.
As many as 700 people have been killed in recent weeks, many of them Christians, according to Open Doors investigators.
“The Red Cross has not counted the people that have been slaughtered and thrown into the river or buried directly by relatives or by fishermen,” said an Open Doors worker who was not identified, apparently amid security concerns.
During a visit to Bangui earlier this year, Open Doors delivered emergency relief to “persecuted [Christian] families, including the widows of six pastors killed by Seleka rebels,” the group said.
In October, Open Doors brought together church leaders from different denominations to voice a joint statement on the circumstances in CAR and to make an appeal for international intervention.