Bible translator killed in Central African Republic

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By Mark Ellis

Elisee Zama
Elisee Zama

A Bible translator in war-ravaged Central African Republic (CAR) was shot and killed this week as he attempted to escape mounting violence in Bangui, according to Wycliffe Bible Translators.

Elisée Zama, who served as a translator with ACATBA, Wycliffe’s partner organization in CAR, was shot as he was transporting family members to the relative safety of a hospital compound.

Violence began intensifying in CAR following a coup in March 2013. Many humanitarian organizations have withdrawn from the country or cut back services and government health clinics have largely been abandoned.

“Reprisals against Christians in particular in Bangui are of great concern,” said Larry Robbins with SIL, a Wycliffe partner in CAR.

“There have been . . . reprisals in certain neighborhoods of Bangui, resulting in thousands seeking refuge on the airstrip of the international airport,” he said.

“Our SIL colleagues report a quieter night. They remain within the security of the School of Theology compound until further notice. There are French patrols now in evidence. We are grateful for the unanimous passing of a UN resolution which gives the French troops a mandate to take appropriate force to protect the civilian population and it appears that this has had an immediate effect.”

Robbins requests prayers for Zama’s widow and three young children, and for ACATBA leaders as they prepare for his burial under very difficult circumstances.

“Please continue to pray for safety,” added Robbins, “and an end to the violence which has shaken so many communities over the last days.”

Last month, the UN warned the CAR was at risk of descending into genocide and France described the country as “on the verge of genocide.” Christians make up 50 percent of the population and Muslims 15 percent, according to the World Factbook.

ACATBA (Association Centrafricaine pour la Traduction de la Bible et l’Alphabétisation) was created in 1993, upon the agreement of 14 evangelical denominations in the CAR. Prior to that time, ACATBA was a National Bible Translation Organization (NBTO).

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