Bible Translator Shot to Death While Trying to Protect Family in War-Torn Central African Republic

ZamaCENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC – A Wycliffe Bible translator was gunned down last week during a deadly spate of violence in the Central African Republic.

Elisee Zama was working with ACATBA (Association Centrafricaine pour la Traduction de la Bible et l’Alphabétisation), which is Wycliffe’s ministry partner in the Central African Republic (C.A.R.). As a part of the group, Zama was working “to promote local language development, Bible translation, literacy and community development in the Central African Republic.”

According to ACATBA, Zama was killed while trying to get his family to safety at a hospital compound in Bangui, the capital of C.A.R.

In a statement released on Tuesday, ACATBA’s director requested prayer for their ministry and especially for Zama’s family.

“I know that without your prayers, we could not continue to stand here,” he stated. “Pray especially for the family of one of our translators, Elisee Zama, who was translating the Bible into the Mandja language and was in the process of taking training at the Evangelical Theology Seminary of Bangui to earn a Degree in translation. He leaves a widow and children.”

Though approximately 50% of C.A.R.’s 5 million residents profess Christianity, a coalition of Islamic rebel groups led a coup in March that threw the country into turmoil. According to reports, the Muslim minority has routinely looted buildings and raped victims, with over 600 people killed last week alone. Another ACATBA Bible translator was murdered less than two months before Zama’s death.

“Pillaging and executions are happening,” ACATBA outlined in a recent update. “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.”

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Late last month, ACATBA reported that “unspeakable horrors” were continuing in C.A.R., with nearly 400,000 people displaced from their homes. Christians have been specifically targeted in several instances, according to witnesses.

“Reprisals against Christians, in particular in Bangui, are of great concern,” a Wycliffe spokesman stated, according to Charisma News. “There have been … reprisals in certain neighborhoods of Bangui, resulting in thousands seeking refuge on the airstrip of the international airport.

Following a recent United Nations resolution, French troops are occupying C.A.R., with the goal of reducing the rampant violence. Christians are hoping the French presence will restore peace to the war-torn country.

Above all, ACATBA representatives ask Christians to pray for the safety of believers in C.A.R.

“Pray first for safety,” a spokesperson requested in a statement earlier this month. “For now, all of our colleagues are staying inside their homes. … Pray for an end to the fighting—for both the immediate situation and long term. Pray for God’s peace to reign in this country that has already endured so much.”

“Continue to pray for God’s protection, provision, and strength during this ongoing crisis,” they continued. “Pray that our colleagues’ faith during this incredibly difficult time will bless and encourage others in their country.”

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