Peace

The Church in Congo

By James Misner and Marcel Serubungo In the Democratic Republic of Congo, some say that you can find all of Africa’s problems: weak national leadership, eroding rule of law, HIV/AIDS and protracted tribal conflict. Warring militias use rape as a weapon of war and perpetrate other human rights violations. Children are stolen, forced to become soldiers and used as proxies between fighting groups.

Congolese civilians are caught in the vicious cycles of conflict and disease. Millions have died as a result. Refugees and internally displaced people number into the millions.

But even in the world’s most war-torn regions, the power of Jesus can overcome the horrors of conflict. After years of warfare, the Church in DR Congo is the only social structure standing. It is the only hope of true peace for survivors of violence.

This is the reality of the Church in DR Congo:

  1. The Church is traumatized. Many people in the Church have been displaced from their homes. They’ve fled as refugees, survived grave atrocities, lost entire crops and ran through the night in search of safety. Our Christian brothers and sisters in DR Congo face the same situations that their greater communities face — they’re not immune from struggle.
  2. The Church is resilient. Even in the midst of adversity and unspeakable hardship, the church in DR Congo stands strong! Despite ethnic divisions within the nation, the church builds unity and reconciliation. They’ve refused to give up the pursuit of peace. They continue meeting together, praying together and worshiping God together. In some of the worst poverty and injustice on the planet the church gathers to proclaim the greatness of God! We have much to learn from them as they restore their communities.
  3. The Church is redeeming suffering. None of us can explain precisely why God allows suffering. But we do know that God redeems it — through his hands and feet, the Church. When a woman survives sexual violence, the Church will take her in, provide food and shelter and help her to care for her children. When cultural norms say that husbands should abandon their wives after rape — the Church works to debunk this lie and to reconcile marriages. The Church stands in the gap and speaks out against this injustice — teaching boys and men that women are created in God’s image and are to be respected and treasured.

Wherever there is suffering in DR Congo – the Church is right there, too. And World Relief is there to empower the Church to fulfill its mission: to bring hope to the hopeless and restore justice to the oppressed. As the people of the Church endure suffering, they faithfully follow in the steps of Jesus – bringing healing to their communities as they themselves are healed.

Would you consider making a gift to empower local churches to prevent further gender-based violence and care for women survivors? All donations will be matched by One Day’s Wages. Your gift will be used to provide medical care and trauma counseling for the victims of sexual violence and to raise community awareness about violence against women. Give today at onedayswages.org/worldrelief.

James and Marcel are both members of the church team at World Relief. James serves as the Global Director of Church Partnership. Marcel serves as the Director of Church Mobilization and Peace Building in DR Congo.

Women must be leaders of peace-building in West Darfur

World Relief deeply believes that sustainable peace-building without involvement of women is impossible. In Sudan, particularly West Darfur, deeply rooted socio-cultural issues prevent women from being involved in many decision-making processes. Usually, women assume lower positions in the community and their voices are neglected. However, women constitute a large proportion of the society and are actively involved in economic activities.

In 2011, World Relief launched a peace and reconciliation project aimed at tackling the root causes of conflict and enhance co-existence among the different tribes in the operational areas. To achieve this objective, World Relief launched community-based peace-building initiatives. Peace and Reconciliation Committees (PRCs) oversee and promote peace at the community level. Sub-committees focus on things like crop protection, water supply area protection and more.

Through these committees (PRCs) and the subcommittees, World Relief has worked to ensure participation of women by confronting the cultural practices that exclude them from leadership.

Sudan-Women

Recently, World Relief organized workshops on peace-building and gender awareness. At first, World Relief staff and volunteers trained 150 women on the issues of gender equality and peace-building. Next, men and women were brought together and taught about the importance of women’s involvement in the peace-building process.

Following the training, 73 women joined the existing peace committees. Today, those women are working alongside men in their community to actively restore peace.

A Hero in the Democratic Republic of Congo

13369006843_5b739df0d3_b.jpg

The Democratic Republic of Congo. It is the second largest country in Africa, home to more than 70 million people and over 250 tribes and languages. It shares a border with eight countries, playing an essential role in the economic and social development across the continent. Its unique rainforest and river ecosystems, fertile grounds and high concentration of valuable raw minerals give it nearly unlimited potential. The Democratic Republic of Congo is also home to the largest conflict since World War II. Since 1996, over five million Congolese have died as a result. Others are vulnerable to rebel group activity, extreme poverty, prevalent diseases including malaria and HIV/AIDS, a high infant mortality rate and sexual violence against women and girls ages two to 60.

Where is God in a war-torn country like the DR Congo, where eight out of every ten women is a victim of rape? Psalm 72:14 gives us a promise of his faithfulness in regions like the DR Congo when it says, “He will rescue them from oppression and violence, for precious is their blood in his sight” (NIV).

Rutshuru is a town located in the North Kivu province of eastern DRC. Pastor Fabian is from the Pentecostal Church in Kelengera, Rutshuru territory. At 58 years old, he is the father of 7 children and a true hero in his community. He refused to flee when M23 soldiers advanced. He said he could not leave his congregation behind.

13233321485_b1f837e9e0_b

(Image: Sean Sheridan)

On July 21, 2013, Fabian was taken by rebel soldiers from his home into the bush, without shoes, proper clothes or the ability to notify his wife. His feet were wounded on lava stone as he followed soldiers into the forest. After walking the entire night, he was brought before the Chief rebel and accused of espionage: he had hosted some Tutsi women who were passing into Rwanda, an act punishable by death according to rebel soldiers.

Fabian explained his role as a Pastor and a follower of Christ meant he had a commitment to all God’s children, regardless of their tribe. Fabian only asked that the soldiers not use machetes but a bullet to kill him, explaining that he was ready to be received in Heaven.

The soldiers held Fabian captive for ten days. Without a shirt, he suffered from the cold and insect bites that caused blood to cover his body. He was given two pieces of uncooked root to eat every day. He was repeatedly interrogated. Child soldiers guarded him by night, informing him that they were eagerly awaiting the command to shoot him. Fabian prayed aloud day and night, refusing to let rebels call his community for a ransom.

On July 31, a rebel leader told Fabian he could be free if he left his possessions, including his money. With only a cell phone and an ID card, Fabian was led blindfolded by child soldiers through the night. Fabian awoke the next morning weak, wounded and traumatized, but he was home. His family, community and church celebrated that God had delivered “Papa Fabien” from the “den of lions.”

Those with hope in Jesus Christ know how the battle ends, for Colossians 1:20 explains that through Jesus Christ all things shall be reconciled to God through the peace established for mankind on the cross. World Relief has been present in the DR Congo since 2002, responding to its Biblical mandate to empower the local Church to bring peace and restoration to torn communities through village peace committees.

In reality, World Relief has stepped into God’s pre-existing, ongoing restorative plan for the most vulnerable. And what an honor it is.

Empower a Hero like Pastor Fabian today.

Ending Poverty Means Ending Violence

11227576253_dbd49be55e_b

“Without an end to the violence that plagues so many in slums, labor camps, brothels, villages, and neighborhoods, our work to end extreme poverty, stop senseless disease among children, and create sustainable economic solutions could erode and even altogether unravel.” –Stephan Bauman, President & CEO of World Relief

As World Relief empowers the local Church to serve the most vulnerable, we come face to face every day with the reality that poor people are extremely vulnerable to violence. Many of the countries in which we operate are war-torn and lack a just rule of law. Around the world, nearly 30 million children, women and men are held as forced labor slaves. One in 5 women will be a victim of rape or attempted rape – and sexual violence makes everyday activities like going to school, gathering water, using a communal restroom or taking public transport dangerous.

At World Relief, we see firsthand that those without protection often lack access to the opportunities, services and materials required to meet their most basic needs. In fact, four billion people – most of the world’s poorest people – live in places where their justice systems do not or cannot protect them from these crippling forms of violence. To advocate for the impoverished, we must also be advocates of peace and protection.

We are joining hands with our friends at International Justice Mission to address the violence directly contributing to poverty around the world. Today, IJM President Gary Haugan and co-author Victor Boutros are releasing their new book, The Locust Effect, to explain why the end of poverty requires the end of violence.

Learn more about The Locust Effect and ways to get involved with the fight for peace. Don’t miss IJM’s unforgettable new video showing what the world is up against as we work together to help the most vulnerable.

IJM Locust Effect Graphic

Lynne Hybels Speaks on Peace in Kenya

By Allison SchroederWait a minute...Isn't this the Ten for Congo trip? Why Kenya?

One of the hardest things about being an advocate for a particular place -- especially a place as complex as the Democratic Republic of Congo -- is that you have to take into consideration difficult things like international relations, globalization, and regional politics. It is never an easy task to stand for the vulnerable. God calls us to difficult places with complicated contexts.

Part of what has drawn Lynne and the Ten for Congo team to spend a day in Kenya is an understanding that Kenya is a part of Congo's context.

Let me explain what the team will be doing in Kenya because it's quite exciting on its own. They're taking advantage of the opportunity to learn from and speak into efforts to end and prevent inter-ethnic violence  in Kenya, especially around elections. The team will be participating in a World Relief-organized peace summit with about 150 Kenyans -- among them church leaders, business owners, and a group of young adult leaders. The event offers a chance to stand for peace -- not only peace in a single country, but peace in the entire region.

Following Kenya’s last presidential elections held in December of 2007, the two main political parties heavily contested the results of the poll. The disagreement over the election's outcome, among other complex factors, contributed to an outbreak of violence across Kenya, primarily affecting the poorest parts of Nairobi, Mombasa, Eldoret, Kisumu, and other areas of the Rift Valley and Nyanza Provinces. Inter-ethnic violence killed more than 1,200 people and displaced about 600,000. The next presidential election will take place in early 2013, and there is much concern that there will be more inter-ethnic violence; in fact, since independence from Britain in 1963, there has never been a peaceful transition of power in this country.

The Ten for Congo team recognizes there are several reasons to participate in the Peace Summit tomorrow. For one thing, as a part of the body of Christ, it is incumbent upon us to stand together for the sake of peace. World Relief's Director of Spiritual Formation, John Gichinga, who is Kenyan and resides in Kenya, says, "Tragically, unless the church learns new skills, based on God’s word, the cycle of violence may remain with us." It is the WHOLE church that needs to learn new skills. The Kenyan church, the Congolese church, the North American church. All of us.

Not only is it the right thing to do for the church to stand together as one body. It's also a good strategy for supporting Congo. How? In a nutshell, what happens in Kenya affects the entire region. If we want peace in Congo, peace in Kenya is critical. A report from the World Policy Institute explains that Kenya is home to numerous refugees, is a regional hub for the United Nations, and is an important economic actor in East Africa. If it heads toward war and disintegration, it will upset the entire region's efforts to find stability and peace. Continued violent conflict in Kenya will likely lead to accelerated capital flight, poverty, illegal arms trafficking, and more.

So it’s complicated. There are no quick fixes. But I am reminded of a few verses in Lamentations that offer hope:

"Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.

They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness."  (Lamentations 3:21-23, NIV translation)

We are not consumed by the complexities and the heartaches of war-torn countries! We stand on Christ the Rock. We are called by (and we call on!) the Christ who teaches a transformational and revolutionary way of life in the Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God”(Matthew 5:9, NIV translation).

For all of these reasons, Lynne and the whole team are “stopping by” Congo’s neighbor Kenya. May they (and all of us who join the team in spirit) remember and honor the Prince of Peace on this and all parts of the journey.

Allison Schroeder is World Relief’s Church Partnership Director based in Baltimore, Maryland.