A pastor in Bangui, capital of Central African Republic, was murdered by supporters of a Muslim warlord and his church ransacked and torched amid escalating violence in the region.
Persecution watchdog Open Doors USA reports that earlier this month, supporters of a notorious Muslim warlord called "Big-Man" stabbed to death Pastor Jean Paul Sankagui of the Eglise du Christ en Centrafrique (ECC).
The deadly attack came after Army and MINUSCA forces patrolling the KM5 area shot and killed two of Big-Man's supporters who had fired at them near St. Mathias Catholic church. In response, the warlord's angry gang turned on local Christians, killing Pastor Sankagui in his home and set his church on fire.
After the initial attack, the Muslims set fire to two other churches in the area, the Apostolic and St Mathias Church, and also destroyed a local school. According to the UN, at least three people were killed and 26 injured, including civilians and combatants, but the full extent of the damage is not yet clear, as Big-Man's supporters blocked entry into the area.
Dr. Michel Yao, acting U.N. humanitarian coordinator in the country, said that more than two dozen wounded were brought in for treatment.
"Armed elements forcefully entered into the facility with the intention to kill some of the injured," he said, according to World Watch Monitor.
Central African Republic is ranked 34th on the World Watch List of 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, according to Open Doors. The organization cites Islamic extremism as the primary source of persecution in CAR, even though Christians make up about 50% of the country's population.
Open Doors reports that at least three Christian places of worship have now been destroyed in the nation's capital since the beginning of the year. Even worse - thousands of Christians have been displaced amid fighting between rebel groups, forcing them to live in refugee camps, where they are exposed to "deplorable" conditions.
WWM notes that the poverty-stricken Central African Republic erupted in civil war in 2013 after Muslim rebels from the Seleka militia overthrew former president Francois Bozize, a Christian. Currently, anti-Balaka ("anti-machete") vigilantes continue to dominate the south and west, while Séléka elements, with the ethnic Fulani and others, dominate the north and east.
"It is important for peace to be restored in the PK5 region of Bangui, as many people believe this unstable area is key to the restoration of peace in the rest of the country," notes Open Doors. "Pray for lasting peace to return to the Central African Republic."