Christian says, “I ate his leg, the whole thing right down to the bone. The State of Religious Faith In The Central African Republic

I ate his leg, the whole thing right down to the bone – with bread. That’s why people call me Mad-dog.”( Ouandja Magloire)

I woke to very bad news, news that sickened me. It’s happening all over again.  Another Rwanda…. in The Central African Republic.  The Central African Republic (CAR) is another wakeup call, not only for western power, but also for religious missionaries and the Western Churches sending them.  The faith you have brought to CAR has failed the test.

I’m not sweeping the CAR failure under the rug today, to placate our “holier than thou” religious sentimentalities. So stop reading if you can’t pull up your pants, because of an inability to acknowledge they are down.

When faith is tested and fails, we should ask why. The same message rang out in the mid 1990’s- Christian Rwanda. A country that in western Christian mission circles was referred to as “The African success story”.  At that time, 800,000 Tutsi people were slaughtered in 100 days, mostly butchered with machetes of a rival Hutu ethnic militia . The perpetrators actually, in some cases would offer to use a bullet, rather than hack them to death with  a machete,  if the “cockroach” could produce money to pay for the bullet. How humane of them. 

Rwanda was 74% Christian at the time, and around 50% evangelicals. The majority sang and danced in church on Sunday, somewhere. The Christian church in the west was not privy to the conversations in the Christian mission agencies back then, because any of them with workers in Rwanda were embarrassed. The issue was discussed in house, and in the western mission journals. The people in the pew were really never part of the debate, or aware of the failure of the Christianity planted in Rwanda.  The, “Love your neighbor” of Jesus became, “love your kind”. I remember reading an article about a Hutu Seventh Day Adventist Pastor who was charged with war crimes, because he led Hutu militia to a rural church building where he knew Tutsi Christian people were taking refuge. and they were all slaughtered in the church. There were several such cases against Hutu church pastors  at the time; I remember a Baptist pastor being charged with crimes against humanity as well.

Our very own Canadian hero, LGen Romeo Dallaire, A French Quebec Canadian, head of the UN mission to Rwanda at the time, refused his orders to abandon his post in Rwanda, knowing the 50,000 Tutsi’s under his protection in a huge stadium would have been murdered if they left. In an interview on Canadian TV years later,  he said that even Hutu Catholic priests were part of the crimes. I wanted to record the episode for that single statement alone, and the expression on his face when he said it as he leaned toward the camera. However, the next time the interview aired , this statement about Catholic priests being involved was conveniently removed from the airing, for placating our Western Christian Sensibilities I suppose. He saw the failure of the UN nations to respond, and the truth of the Rwandan church. Probably no small admission for a French Catholic.  Read his fascinating book. Shake Hands With the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda

After the Genocide of 800.000 in Rwanda “………following my return from Rwanda, a Canadian Forces padre asked me how, after all I had seen and experienced, I could still believe in God. I answered that I know there is a God because in Rwanda I shook hands with the devil. I have seen him, I have smelled him and I have touched him. I know the devil exists, and therefore I know there is a God.”…… (LGen Romeo Dallaire “Shake hands with the Devil” pg xviii, 2003, Random House Canada.)

A reviewer of this book commented on,  “

“Genocide is SYMPTOM–Lack of Public Intelligence is CAUSE” (Robert David STEELE Vivas)

Oh, this 1994 Rwandan genocide story rocked the western Christian world…. the ones who knew about it. Most local churches did not even know the story, and how it reflected on their very mission, and mission’s models.

The talk in Christian Mission agencies at the time was, “How on earth could a country that was 73% Christians, 50% of them evangelical Bible believing people, claiming to follow Jesus, who taught Love Your neighbor, and Pray for your enemy, permit this to happen, widely being part of the butchery? Where was the church?

You tell me, Christian mission Agencies?  What is your your response to this western church? Truth is, I’ve never heard any response. It got swept under the rug.

The old adage about religious people  in Africa (Muslim or Christian)

“Scratch a christian/Muslim and you find an animist.” One Christian leader stated about African Christianity,

““African Christianity is a mile wide and an inch deep.”

These statements ruffle and inflame African theologian sensibilities, and western mission workers alike. I actually found a blog today where the Missionary wrote.

“I sometimes laugh (or cry?) when I hear Americans say that they have come here “to help strengthen the faith of the Africans.” I think to myself, “my friend, you have no idea. I hope you pay enough attention to let the African saints show you what deep faith really looks like.”

There is a truth in what he writes…. But those same missionaries who were happy with “Success Story of Rwanda before the slaughter, were staggeringly silent. We can learn something from faithful African people, but the masses are very shallow.  Is it any different in the average congregation at home?

I met people in Africa, who I am convinced if they thought they could get my position, power, and mainly access to my money (it’s always about the money); and get away with it, they would have stolen it if they had the chance. I know church leaders who did steal church money, some several times. But not from me, their local churches.

I dealt with the deep seething resentment and accusations. Local people seething in a meeting because they could not get on a western gravy train of free and easy access to western cash. They despised me for standing in the way of it. They knew we were getting western cash for the work, and they felt it should be given directly to them. We were the enemy, because we managed it, and “blocked” what was suppose to be “For Them.”. They never understood (or just didn’t care) that our donors required us to manage it properly.

If you knew how many meetings I had in Africa over money, with some men trying to worm money out of me(the very ones I refuse to trust), you would want a course on this in Mission schools and NGO/Humanitarian training.  If you experienced the bitter look you get from people seething at you because they want access to the money, you would understand.

In fact, that is the chief issue after almost 20 years of Africa that still haunts me.  Are they really my friend, or are they just trying to get at what they think I have? With time the friends stay, the the money seekers  give up, but there is always new influx of the “money testers” wandering in and out of your work each year. Once they see there is nothing in it financially for them, they leave. Good riddance, I say every time. Those types cripple the West African Nations. It is so normal to line your own pockets, that they think we are abnormal for not doing so.  (Well, really, they think we are lining our pockets, fooling the people back home by keeping what they send for “Them”…. for ourselves.) That is a nasty underbelly of humanitarian and NGO work, it is there for religious missionaries too. The tension over money.

There is much the west has to learned from genuine African Christianity. However, there is much of it that is shallow , just like back home. And every religious denomination thinks their work is the exception.

The conclusion Western Mission agencies came to about Rwanda (I have the articles) is that Tribalism was still rooted in the heart of the people, Christians were as Xenophobic as anyone else -it was never addressed, churches became influenced by political power and advancement in the church for money,  also church positions afforded Political power as well, so it drew the wrong kind of leaders. Religious Leadership became more about power, money, and a job, than transformation.

It’s happening again in the “Christian Majority”  (74%) in  the Central African Republic”

I woke up to this article today and cried.

I ate his leg, the whole thing right down to the bone – with bread. That’s why people call me Mad-dog.”( Ouandja Magloire)

“A Muslim man had been murdered here a few days ago, by Christians. His limbs were hacked off. Then one of the crowd ate the flesh in a public demonstration of cannibalism.”CAR act of cannibalism dark sign of things to come?

He said he had been “angry” because Muslims killed his pregnant wife, his-sister-in law and her baby……Footage of the incident shows “Mad Dog” eating the man’s leg, our correspondent says……But many Christian fighters believe in magic and sorcery, he adds. Some wear amulets containing the flesh of men they have killed because they believe it makes them invincible.”CAR cannibal tells BBC: I ate man in revenge attack

““African Christianity is a mile wide and an inch deep.” “Scratch a christian and you find an animist.” The guy ate his neighbor because of animistic beliefs and fetishism….. not because of any “Jesus”  thing.

I heard the same stories in Ivory Coast during the coup in Christmas 1999 and the subsequent chaos over the next five years. The stories were around Mali the last year or so, too. Muslims using magic, fetishism for power in Jihad, to believing it would protect them from bullets. Is this belief Islamic?

Western Christians are quick to dismiss it,  offhandedly saying, “They are not real Christians.” What? They go to church, they dance in church, they sing in church. So what is a “Real Christian” then?

This is not about bashing Christianity, but it is exposing the failures so they can be addressed. We can’t fix a problem we will not acknowledge and then address. I walked in those circles, I was in their institutions. I used to be a Theologian. (Who Is The Invisible Humanitarian). I know how they think, because I once thought like they do. Question anything about the local church, or Christian movement and you are soon labeled. Bitter, rebellious, negative, hurt, divisive. Every one of those words are means to shut you up, and manipulate other people from listening to you. Churches are great silencers of questioning and debate. But why should we be silent about CAR?

Rwanda happened in 1994, just before I first came to Africa in 1995, so those Rwandan stories I digested; everything I could find. So I began my work in Africa seeing things different as a result. What am I really building here, not on the surface, but a a gut and heart level? Some people were amazing, others alarming.

When religious institutions are measuring faithfulness by pews, buildings, programs, projects, membership numbers, baptisms, faithfulness to church assemblies, the vitality of the music, drums, and the vibrant dancing on Sunday….. much of the religious Christianity looks great. This is what people see on a short term trip to Africa.  Not all is bad, much of it is sincere, but not all rosy either. 74% of Car were Sunday morning dancers. Start a war and you will see what is really in there in the heart of a people.

Today The Central African Republic, like Rwanda, is showing it’s not all rosy.

When we measure by “Transformation” what do we get?

When we measure by, “Love your neighbor”  “Love your enemies”, “Pray for those who persecute you.” All words of Jesus….. we get a different picture.

If transformation were the measure, even the western church gives another picture… and that is why people of faith are leaving Western Religious institutions in droves. It’s not because they are losing their faith; they say this religious institution stuff is killing my faith, it’s choking it out. I share some understanding with them.

“A growing number of people are leaving the institutional church for a new reason. They are not leaving because they have lost faith. They are leaving the church to preserve their faith.” The Present Future (2003), Reggie McNeal

I did some digging and found the stats reported by the most respected epicenter for mission statistics among Western Evangelicals. Here’s the scoop….

Central African Republic (CAR) Christians are 73.9% of the population. ( Protestant 35.1%, Independent churches 17.4%, Roman Catholic 26.4%, other christian 21%).  Islam 13.9%, Ethnic Religions (Usually forms of Animism) 11.1%

How could this happen, more precisely be permitted to happen, in a country where 74% profess to be Christians? In CAR, there is a higher percentage of evangelicals than in America, or Canada, by double even triple, if not quadruple. So where are the voices of the religious leaders within CAR? Where are the voices of Western religious leaders and mission agencies working in CAR, about Christian conduct in CAR?  The Expats have probably all evacuated, and when they come back, how will they address, in some cases,  the crimes of their church people, or in most cases, the silence of their church people? Will it be business as usual, as long as we have a full house on church on Sunday?  Seven out of every ten people in this conflict are the Churches… like it or not. 

Maybe Jesus had it right all along.  The bottom line is this….. the foundation of  the myriads of religious commands of all religion… what we are really trying to get to in humanity is this. Nothing more, nothing less. 

“Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind, This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the law and the Prophets hang on these two commands.” (Matthew 22:38-40)

Does it need to be any more complicated than this?

Anything more is slavery, not freedom.

Anything less is, “To hell with my religion, I will eat your leg when it suits my purposes.”

Religious leaders have questions to answer… But, it is my experience most will not answer, because they don’t know what to say. To say anything, involves admitting our religious photocopy machine is spitting out crappy quality images of  Jesus.  They have no other mechanism for making  Jesus copies, now that this one is exposed for what it is.

However, those leaving to “Preserve their faith”…. might have something to teach us about that.

Hell, I’m a crappy quality image myself, and it breaks my heart.

But I hope that in me, there is enough of Jesus’ “Love your neighbor –Love your enemies -Pray for those who persecute you”, that it would prevent me from eating my Muslim neighbor’s leg. And I hope there is enough of Jesus in the Jesus community around me that they would NOT cheer if I did.

Love To Hear From You

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