In March 2013, the rebel group known as Séléka overthrew the government in the Central African Republic (CAR). Even though there have been on-going efforts for peace, the area is still affected by continued violence and lawlessness. This has led to thousands of internally-displaced persons and people fleeing into neighboring countries. Approximately half of the country's population, two million people, is found in vulnerable situations. Violations of human rights, including targeted killings, rapes, torture, arbitrary arrests and the recruitment of child soldiers have been reported. In addition to these indiscriminate attacks, a serious famine situation is developing.
Recently, the UN Security Council mandated a mission in CAR to protect civilians and restore state authority. French reinforcement troops (in addition to the 600 already on the ground) have been sent to support the African force. However, looting and attacks are continuing, and violence is spreading to other areas outside of the capital of Bangui. It is expected that even with additional troops, the security situation in CAR will remain unpredictable through at least the first half of 2014. There is an ever-present need for humanitarian assistance in the areas of protection and security, specifically.
Despite the presence of mineral resources in the region, CAR is one of the poorest countries in the world. The country has a history of unrest, and even before the most recent coup, people still lived in fear of criminal gangs.
In coordination with the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), Lutheran Disaster Response has been present and is providing assistance to help vulnerable populations within CAR. We are providing immediate needs, such as protection, food, relief supplies and hygiene and sanitation materials. However, increasing tensions in the area are creating obstacles in delivering emergency materials.
With LWF, we are also working to help strengthen the resilience and capacity of the area by providing psychosocial support and encouraging inter-religious peace and mediation initiatives.
We are also working with our companion church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Central African Republic (EELRCA), which is playing a key role in peace-building and reconciliation between Muslim and Christian communities in the country. We have a long-standing history with the EELRCA, and we will continue to walk with our brothers and sisters on this road toward peace.
The ELCA has Global Personnel who were evacuated from their location in CAR on Palm Sunday and have yet to return back to CAR permanently. They are currently in Cameroon and maintain contact with people in CAR as much as possible.