Generous love amid war in Democratic Republic of Congo

Feb 19, 2018 by

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KIKWIT, Democratic Republic of Congo — Loving the generous people of the Democratic Republic of Congo is not difficult, but evil happening in the rural Kasaï region of that lush country is hard to comprehend.

In December, survivors of civil war there told a delegation from Mennonite World Conference’s Deacons Commission of surprise attacks on their villages from marauding militia. With guns or knives, such groups slaughter men and boys and those associated in any way with the government.

In Kikwit, survivors of violence talked with, from left, MWC West Africa regional representative Francisca Ibanda of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Deacon Commission chair Siaka Traoré of Ivory Coast and Daniel Geiser of Switzerland. — J. Nelson Kraybill/MWC

In Kikwit, survivors of violence talked with, from left, MWC West Africa regional representative Francisca Ibanda of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Deacon Commission chair Siaka Traoré of Ivory Coast and Daniel Geiser of Switzerland. — J. Nelson Kraybill/MWC

Victims die in front of their own families — in front of women and children who themselves might be assaulted or killed. Villages lie in ruins; thousands have fled on foot. Traumatized survivors have lost everything — property, family, community. Some bear scars of torture. Most will never go back to their birthplace.

Delegates returned home with gratitude for Mennonites in the DRC, who received the group with generosity and love, despite their suffering.

In a country with overwhelming economic and political challenges, Mennonites fill houses of worship with exuberant song and a hopeful message of reconciliation. In a nation where it is common to care only for your own kin, Mennonites in Kikwit and Kinshasa care for displaced people from any tribe.

One group of traumatized survivors met the delegation at Église Frères Mennonites Nouvelle Jerusalem in Kikwit. The stories they told caused some delegates to long for fulfillment of John’s vision: “God himself will be with them, he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more” (Revelation 21).

Causes of the mayhem in parts of DRC include a struggle to control diamond or gold mines, tribal rivalry, political rebellion, foreign intervention and criminal activity. People fleeing the upheaval frequently endure weeks or months of danger traveling hundreds of miles to Kikwit or other cities. Women give birth during the dangerous trek to safety.

“During our visit, I often thought of Michael J. Sharp, a Mennonite young adult from my home community in the United States, who was assassinated in the Kasaï region last year while on a peace mission with United Nations,” said MWC President J. Nelson Kraybill. “Michael’s death touched me and many in MWC deeply. What are sisters and brothers in the DRC enduring with countless losses of their own?”

Mennonite Central Committee and other Anabaptist organizations are responding to the crisis in DRC. MWC helped coordinate conversation between the various agencies. In a project called Operation Good Samaritan, Mennonites of Kikwit who have little money to provide relief have opened their homes to take in survivors whom they often do not even know.

The group met an exhausted Congolese Mennonite medical doctor caring for displaced people in Kikwit, who told how difficult or impossible it is to acquire essential medical supplies.

There are more than 400 tribes in DRC, and this creates tension even for some Anabaptists. But the inclusive love seen at Kikwit is a model for the global church.

“It’s not a problem to have tribes, because in Christ, tribes can work together,” said Francisca Ibanda of Kinshasa, MWC regional representative for West Africa. “We can love even those from tribes who are supposed to be our enemies.”


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