'Start a serious search for peace'
Baptists in Africa have expressed deep displeasure at ongoing conflicts on the continent that have led to 'wanton destruction of life and property of defenseless and vulnerable citizens.'
Making special reference to the Central African Republic (CAR), South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the All Africa Baptist Fellowship (AABF) called 'upon all parties involved to put an end to their anti-social actions and to start a serious search for peace.'
AABF, a regional body of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA), urged the respective governments to 'fulfill their constitutional responsibility to provide and guarantee peaceful co-existence, safety and security for all citizens irrespective of ethnicity, language, colour, gender or religion.'
Baptists in Africa and elsewhere were encouraged 'to intercede for these countries that respect for human life, peace and stability will soon be restored' and to 'take practical action to express their Christian love and compassion to those affected.'
Fighting in the CAR began in 2012 and led to the ousting of the government by Séléka, a Muslim rebel coalition. Attacks were made against Christian civilians. The new president, Michel Djotodia, resigned and was replaced by Catherine Samba-Panza. Her government has taken action to disarm and suppress militia groups that staged retaliatory attacks against Muslims.
Despite a January 2014 ceasefire agreement, fighting continues in South Sudan between the government and rebels. More than 900,000 people have been displaced as a result of the fighting and are facing possible starvation. South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in July 2011.
The DRC has been bedeviled by wars and conflicts going back decades. An estimated 5.4 million people have died as a result of the conflicts, making it the costliest in human lives since the Second World War.
Two of the three countries have significant Baptist populations. There are four BWA member organizations in CAR with total membership of more than 180,000 in more than 770 churches. The DRC has 11 BWA member organizations with more than 1.6 million members in approximately 5,400 churches. South Sudan reports less than 1,000 members, though they were part of the larger Sudan Interior Church, based in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, before the country's independence.
The BWA, though Baptist World Aid, has sponsored and supported numerous humanitarian and development projects in these countries.