(Photo: Reuters/Luc Gnago)
A Bible translator working in the violently unstable country of the Central African Republic was gunned down and killed last week while attempting to transport his family to safety. The Central African Republic has been in a state of upheaval since the March 2013 coup led by Islamic rebel groups known as the Seleka.
Elisée Zama, a translator working for ACATBA, a partner organization of Wycliffe Bible Translators in the Central African country, was reportedly shot in the city of Bangui while attempting to transport relatives to safety at a hospital compound amid growing violence between locals and members of the Seleka.
The unpaid Islamic militia group overthrew President François Bozizé in March 2013, and since this overthrow the rebel group has continued to inflict violence in the form of looting and surprise attacks on locals, especially Christians in the towns of Bangui and Bossangoa. The violence has heightened in recent months as the Seleka attempt to stave off a counter-coup by Christian residents who have formed small fighting groups of their own in response to the rebel violence.
The Seleka have been especially targeting Christians, often times attacking villages in the middle of the night and looting homes while murdering residents with machetes. As the Telegraph notes, members of the Seleka can be seen throughout Bangui riding around on stolen motorbikes, which usually take about four years of savings to purchase.
The growing violence has caused many Christians in Bangui and other cities to seek refuge in large enclosures such as hospital compounds and airstrips to avoid attacks by the Seleka; Zama was on his way to the hospital compound with his family when he was shot last week. He is survived by his wife and three kids.
ACATBA released a statement saying Zama is the second translator they have lost due to the growing violence in recent months. "Within a two-month period, ACATBA is experiencing the loss of a second translator," the group said in a statement.
"This morning the fighting ceased, with the attackers having pulled back from the city. Now pillaging and executions are happening. Everyone is staying in their homes in fear of being the next victim. ... There is only the Lord on whom we can depend, thanks to your incessant prayers."
Larry Robbins, a coordinator with SIL, another Wycliffe affiliate, said in a statement that fighting has been so bad in recent days that many have sought refuge on the airstrip at Bangui's international airport. "Reprisals against Christians in particular in Bangui are of great concern," Robbins said. "There have been ... reprisals in certain neighborhoods of Bangui, resulting in thousands seeking refuge on the airstrip of the international airport."
Recently, the United Nations Security Council passed a mandate allowing French troops to enter the Central African Republic to restore order by "all measures necessary," including disarming militia groups. This decision came after the Red Cross announced that close to 400 people were killed after three days of fighting in Bangui.