On 24 March, François Bozize – the president of Central African Republic - fled the capital after hundreds of armed rebels invaded the city and plunged the country into chaos. Since then, looters and gunmen have roamed the streets of the capital, Bangui.
Such turmoil is not new for this country, which for decades has endured coups and unrest. Students, staff and others associated with UJC, the IFES movement there, have all been deeply affected by the recent events.
Yvan Baguida, General Secretary of UJC, tells us that the board chair has received threats on his life and a board member ‘was robbed of his beloved home’ by the rebels. A student representative’s family home was looted and their vehicle stolen.
Young people are the biggest victims of this situation. Since 2000 there has been no normal academic year...
But the impact of the chaos goes much deeper. ‘Young people are the biggest victims of this situation. Since 2000 there has been no normal academic year: the university has not yet completed the 2011-2012 academic year. Politicians show no restraint in manipulating students for their own purposes. The result is that we find ourselves working with young people who have no reference point, who are devoid of morals, have no sense of hard work and are without competencies even though they are graduates who are trained to work the system. This is the situation of the majority of Central African youth and is the reason why many are joining the rebellion. For them the only way to succeed in society is to be vicious like dogs or “yes men” of power.
‘Obviously this plays havoc with student ministry, because the university has not been functioning well and since the coup the academic system has been paralyzed (no classes). Not to mention that the looting has not spared the educational system: it is feared that databases at the university containing grades and other information may be lost.
‘We believe that students have a part to play in the country's reconstruction. So UJC is holding tournaments of excellence among secondary and tertiary institutions. Through cultural and sporting events, we will strengthen morality, reflection and unity while rebuilding these institutions as best we can. And of course prayer and the gospel will have a central place in these efforts.’
In the midst of all this, Camille Yabi, General Secretary of GBEEB Benin wrote to Yvan and shared ‘a small token’ of how God is working there in the life of a student from Central African Republic who was preparing to return home to join in the rebellion. ‘On the eve of his departure he met GBEEB students on campus. Through exchanges with them he invited Jesus into his life. Then he shared his desire to go and join in the rebellion. But he was persuaded by Christ to abandon this idea. God is able to change the wicked plans of the enemies of Africa.’
Please pray with us that God will indeed overrule the wicked plans of those who would lead others away from him, and for Christian students to rise to the challenge of transforming Africa. May Psalm 1 become true for the youth of Central African Republic!