First-hand reports from the Central African Republic along with tangible ways to help will be part of a program to be presented Sunday night at the Winona Lake, Ind., Grace Brethren Church, 1200 Kings Highway (Bruce Barlow, lead pastor). The program, free and open to the public, begins at 6 p.m.
“The Central African Crisis—What Can Be Done to Help?” will include “insider reports” from the heads of three significant organizations that operate in the war-torn country. Participants will include Jim Hocking, CEO of Water for Good (formerly ICDI), which services central Africa with water wells, agricultural consulting, and radio broadcasting; Mike Taylor, founder and CEO of Three Strands, a medical ministry to the Central African Republic; and Barb Wooler, who founded and is the USA-based director of Project Hope and Charité, an orphan care program that services more than 3,000 central African children.
Also making a short statement Sunday night will be Dr. Francois Ngoumape who, with his wife and two daughters, left the central African capital city of Bangui on December 23. Ngoumape, who directs the Grace Brethren seminary and Bible schools in the C.A.R., is spending a six-month respite from the conflict in Winona Lake, where he will be International Scholar-in-Residence at Grace Theological Seminary.
Each participant will give firsthand reports from their contacts in Africa, will offer specific and tangible ways for Americans to help alleviate the suffering, and will be available to answer questions from the audience.
The Central African Republic is currently involved in an extremely complex state of bloody violence, with many different forces involved. In March 2013, Seleka rebels toppled the former president François Bozizé and replaced him with Michel Djotodia. Throughout December there were many clashes between rival groups and last month more than one thousand people are believed to have been killed.
The fighting has led to a dire humanitarian situation. The number of internally displaced people has more than doubled to 935,000 since December, the UN says. Approximately 500,000 have fled their homes in the capital, Bangui, alone—almost half the city’s population. Some 60 percent of those displaced are children. In the capital, the largest camp is around the airport where 100,000 residents now live under tarpaulins, with no running water. Water For Good is working this week with UNICEF to dig temporary latrines and to install water bladders for more than 20,000 refugees near the airport.
One of the few NGOs there, Doctors Without Borders (MSF), said last Thursday it was reducing its activities at the camp because of the violence in the area. There is an urgent need for more humanitarian aid.
The Grace Brethren Fellowship, headquartered in Winona Lake, has a significant interest in the country with more than 2,000 Grace Brethren churches in C.A.R. All western missionaries have been evacuated and many of the Brethren people and organizations have suffered greatly from the indiscriminate killing, looting, and committing of atrocities. In addition, a food crisis has developed since spring gardens were not able to be planted, and food supplies are running low.