On 13 September 2022, a rebel from the Coalition Patriotique pour le Changement (CPC) group sexually assaulted Igna* (36) from the Central African Republic in her house.
Igna lives in an informal Internally Displaced People’s (IDP) camp in the eastern Haute Kotto district where in the early hours of that morning, members of the CPC forcefully entered Igna and her husband’s house.
“They entered the village around 3am, and we heard gunshots, so we thought that they were from the Central African Armed Forces (FACA), who were on patrol because the leader of the group had announced this door-to-door patrol by FACA elements,” Igna told field workers.
“I woke my husband up and told him that the FACA had started their work. He got up to open the door, and as he did, he shouted, Lord Jesus, we’re dead!”
Igna’s husband realised that the men were rebels and not soldiers.
Ten rebels entered the house and started threatening them, asking for money and cigarettes. “My husband convinced them that he could take them to where cigarettes were sold. When he left, five of the attackers remained in the house with me. That is when one of them raped me.”
After the assault, one of the men asked Igna to take her to where cigarettes were sold. Once there, she managed to escape and hide in a bush. “He fired three shots to scare me into coming out of hiding, but I didn’t. I stayed there till daybreak until I heard my nephews calling out my name, searching for me.”
Last year, two of Igna’s brothers were killed during an attack by the same group. She and her surviving family sought refuge in an IDP camp in the Haute Kotto district along with other villagers who fled. Field sources estimate that around 100 people currently live in the camp, where Igna is still waiting for medical care after the attack.
Various rebel groups terrorise communities throughout the CAR. These attacks have often been systematically directed against Christian communities to enslave and weaken them. The CPC is affiliated with the Front Populaire pour la Renaissance de la Centrafrique (FPRC), a rebel group mainly active in Bria, the capital city of the Haute Kotto district.
Within the context of political fragility and insecurity, women and girls, especially IDPs, are especially vulnerable to incidences of sexual and gender-based violence at the hands of armed groups (Human Rights Watch, 2019).
According to the 2022 OD Gender Report, women are targeted as a sexual “prize” and used as an instrument to punish or harm the wider Christian community. They’re widely viewed to be of lesser value, both as Christians and as women. As easier targets for sexual crimes, attacks may also result from their generally lower status in society as women instead of explicitly religious reasons.
Whether women and girls are viewed as pure or worthless, their bodies become a vehicle for imparting shame on the Christian community, particularly in cultures where sexual purity is inextricably tied with family honour. Survivors of sexual abuse return traumatised and symbolic reminders of the power of the perpetrators.
- Pray that Igna will receive medical attention soon and for her spiritual and emotional healing.
- Pray that the Lord will strengthen Igna’s family and comfort them as they grieve the loss of Igna’s brothers and hurt because of her attack.
- Pray that God will protect Igna, her family and the many other vulnerable Christian families displaced by the insecurity from further harm.
- Pray for the well-being of Christian communities across CAR that live in poor humanitarian conditions in IDP camps. May the Lord meet their daily needs, and may they be a strong testimony of the Lord’s faithfulness as our Provider.
- Pray for peace in the country so people can return to their homes, raise their families and freely live out their Christian faith.
- Pray for the countless rebel groups in CAR to hear and be completely transformed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
For more on the church in the Central African Republic, click here.
*Name changed, and representative image used for security reasons.