Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Real Christian Courage

Would you risk your life to protect a member of another religious group? It takes courage to jeopardize your own safety to help a family member or a good friend. What does it take to do the same for someone who could be considered your enemy? This kind of courage is on display in the Central African Republic, where a group of Catholic Priests face threats from Christian militia as they work to protect their neighbors.

Sectarian violence is tearing the Central African Republic (CAR) apart. Trouble began in CAR when Islamic rebels called the Seleka toppled the government. Once peaceful villages where Christians lived alongside Muslims were attacked. A number of Christians were killed before the Seleka were driven from power. Christians then turned the tables attacking their fellow countrymen, killing Muslims and driving them out of their homes. Near the town of Carnot many who fled for their lives have found themselves at the mercy of a local church which has opened its doors and become home to around 800 Muslims.

With more Muslims arriving daily the church has refused to shut the gates, becoming a refuge for those who survived when the anti-Balaka stormed Carnot in February. Once inside the Muslims rely on the walls of the compound and a group of peacekeepers for their safety. How long this church will remain a safe haven is unknown as armed militiamen have threatened to burn down the church if the Muslims do not leave. The militia is currently stockpiling gasoline in preparation for carrying out their threat, which is not limited to just the building or to the Muslims within.

One of the priests associated with the church has spoken of being threatened when he walks in the village. With threat both to personal life and to church property the people who run this church continue to minister, taking opportunity to show Christian love to their neighbors. No, the people they are helping are not believers in Christ. I suppose for some knowing this would make it easy to simply turn them over to the militiamen outside the gate. But Christian ministry is not always about the easy way. Ministering under threat of death takes real courage and conviction.

I hope you will join me in praying for the Central African Republic and for the church near the town of Carnot. As you pray remember to thank God for those who have the courage to minister under the most difficult situations. Then ask God to build this kind of courage in your heart: the courage to obey Him no matter the risk.

(Description of the situation near Carnot is based on a report posted at Washingtonpost.com.)