The high walls of Ngaragba prison enclose more than 500 prisoners and their guards, who live in a state of anger, stress and fear. This is what the Bible Society of the Central African Republic and its church partners found on a recent visit to share God’s love in this place of despair.
“Conditions in the prison are cramped and unhygenic and many of the inmates and guards are suffering from an infectious skin condition,” describes Bible Society General Secretary Sylvain Ndjendolé. “The majority of the prisoners are very young – around 18 – but they have very little hope for the future and find it hard to see a life beyond the prison walls.
Addicted to cannabis
“In fact, some of them don’t want to leave because they have become addicted to cannabis while in jail, where it is openly traded and used. Also, many of the prisoners are full of anger at their situation. Some haven’t been convicted of a crime but have been awaiting trial for months or even years.
“One young inmate told us that his heart was full of hatred for the person who he said was responsible for him being in prison and that he was planning to take revenge once he was released.
“But after he heard our message and read some passages of the Bible that we gave him, he said he had changed his mind.
Move on with my life
“‘What I’ve heard today has really made me think,’ he told us. ‘I feel that I need to forgive the person and move on with my life.’”
The Bible Society gave out Bibles and other Scripture material, as well as anti-bacterial soap to help with hygiene. Together with the church team, they also ran two separate Bible study sessions: one for the prisoners and the other for prison staff.
“We talked to the prisoners about 1 Peter 2:1-3, encouraging them to set aside all the bad things in their lives and start afresh in the knowledge of God’s kindness and love for them,” says Mr Ndjendolé.
“The prison staff read Hebrews 13:3 and were encouraged to show compassion to the inmates in their care.”
The prisoners and their guards responded warmly to the Bible Society’s visit. Eighty-five inmates who wanted to commit their lives to God are now attending weekly Bible study classes in the prison and will soon be baptised.
A senior prison official thanked the Bible Society for including his staff in the visit.
“Being a prison officer is a very difficult and risky job and it is hard to find the courage to continue, especially if you don’t believe in God,” he noted. “Most of the guards don’t know God, so I thank you for giving them Bibles, too, and speaking to them. I pray that God will bless your efforts to reach both prisoners and prison guards.”
The Bible Society planned to visit five prisons during 2012 but has only had the funding to be able to visit two so far.
“Please join us in praying for God’s blessing on this ministry and his provision so that we are able to reach more prisoners with his Word,” adds Mr Ndjendolé.