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International: Thousands seek refuge in Congo Salvation Army centres

Update: 8 April 2016

A ceasefire has been declared in the Republic of Congo’s capital Brazzaville, following gun battles which killed at least 17 people and injured many more. Thousands of residents who had been sheltering in the safety of The Salvation Army’s centres in the city have started returning to their homes. However, attacks have now flared up in the Pool Département which adjoins the capital. The Salvation Army is responding by opening additional refugee camps to receive displaced people from the affected villages.

Leader of The Salvation Army’s Congo (Brazzaville) Territory, Commissioner Onal Castor, explains: ‘Many have lost their lives, and people are scared. A thousand refugee families remain at our Moungali corps (church) hall, too frightened to leave. Villagers from Pool are now coming to Brazzaville for security, but we are not sure if the temporary ceasefire in the city will hold. We are making plans to accommodate more people safely.’

Commissioner Castor is grateful for the prayer offered by Salvationists and friends worldwide and asks that intercession for the military situation in Congo continues. Meanwhile, The Salvation Army’s world leader General André Cox repeated his call to pray for the central African nation at this unsettling time. ‘Violence is not the answer,’ he said. ‘Commissioner Silvia and I pray that peace would prevail, and encourage Salvationists worldwide to be faithful in praying for the Republic of Congo and its people. We pray too for strength and wisdom for the dedicated Salvation Army officers and staff of the Congo Brazzaville Territory who are selflessly supporting displaced people despite their own difficulties.

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Update: 5 April 2016

Gun battles on the streets of Brazzaville – the capital city of the Republic of Congo – have forced residents to flee their homes to find emergency shelter. At one point on Tuesday morning, nearly 10,000 displaced Congolese people were seeking safe refuge at The Salvation Army’s corps (church) compound in the central Moungali area of the city.

Communications in the city have been disrupted, but the leader of The Salvation Army in Congo Brazzaville Territory, Commissioner Onal Castor, described the scenes as ‘unbelievable’. He is sheltering with fellow officers, cadets and 4,000 members of the public in the corps hall, and adjacent Salvation Army-run guest house and conference hall. ‘The situation is terrible,’ he said as unconfirmed reports were received of many casualties amid heavy exchanges of gunfire between government forces and opposition militia groups. 

A second Salvation Army refuge for a further 1,200 people was swiftly opened in the Loua area west of the capital, away from the fighting in the southern suburbs of Nzoko and Makelekele. Emergency funds for food, water and sanitary supplies are being made available from International Headquarters.

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