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01
Apr

The day Gabriel Ole was Killed

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With a quivering voice, Blanche Ole quietly spoke over the phone from the Central African Republic (CAR):

It is very, very difficult and I have no words to say what happened. My husband left the house as he does normally but he never came back. Later I just saw the cops. I don’t know where to start. My husband left the house in the morning and never came back and you hear the news that he was killed by gunmen.

On February 25 Gabriel Ole, 66, an elder at the Eglise Baptiste Doumbia in Bangui, joined with five other aid workers to travel to the northwestern border of Chad. Rebels ambushed the car, murdered all six and then torched the vehicle.

Gabriel’s father had been a strong Christian and had started a church in his home when Gabriel was a young boy. Through the years, Gabriel followed his father’s example and became a deacon and a prominent church trainer. Gabriel had personally trained many Baptist church leaders now serving in this area of CAR. One reason he agreed to this particular trip was to receive feedback from individuals who had received this training. They were now working in remote areas with displaced refugee families from the ongoing conflict that has swept across CAR since 2012.

As Paulim, a younger brother of Gabriel, noted, “Gabriel was so peaceful. Christ was his motivation. He did not do anything for money but everything for Christ.” Gabriel’s personal slogan was “education cannot wait.” But for an individual who gave his life to Christ, will this be true for his family? Will the children left behind and a family suddenly left without an income from an untimely death find that their education will be forced to wait?

Unfortunately, the story of Gabriel Ole is just one example of the challenges facing people of faith across the Central African Republic today. According to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (http://www.uscirf.gov/sites/default/files/CentralAfricanRepublic.2017.pdf):

The Central African Republic (CAR) remains fragile, susceptible to outbreaks of sectarian violence, and fractured along religious lines. Militias formed along opposing Muslim and Christian lines continue to kill individuals based on their religious identity, leading to retaliatory attacks and waves of violence. CAR’s Muslim population remains disproportionately displaced.

The violence has created 350,000 internally displaced persons, 450,000 refugees, and left 2.3 million people in need of humanitarian assistance.

Baptists like Gabriel Ole have also been impacted. Nicholas Aime S. Singa-Gbazia, president of the Association of Baptist Churches of the Central African Republic, has documented that since 2012, 77 Baptist churches have been attacked ranging from petty vandalism to destruction via arson. As Singa-Gbazia asked, would BWA Baptists be willing to pray for CAR, help with immediate food and medication for those who have lost everything, and help train church leaders so that they may minister well in the midst of entire communities suffering war-torn trauma?

Though millions have been impacted within CAR, there is a pressing need to stand with the family of Gabriel Ole. As Baptist President Singa-Gbazia affirmed, the family “is broken. They do not have any resources, they do not have anything.”

Perhaps the statement that haunts me most is what was said about Gabriel, “He could just give up his rights in order to help people.”

Would that be true of us? Would we be willing to give up our rights to help people? More specifically, would we as BWA Baptists from around the world, come alongside Blanche Ole, the widow of this slain Baptist leader and their seven daughters? With the youngest daughter, only 13, and six of the seven children still in school, will we as a BWA family give up our rights to make sure these young women continue to receive the education they need?

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