Responding to violence and displacement in DR Congo

by
Mennonite Central Committee Staff with Mennonite Church Canada files
;
August 22, 2017
;
Mennonite Church Canada/Mennonite Central Committee
Mother and baby in front of church in DR Congo
Group of people in a circle talking
Winnipeg, Manitoba

Mennonite Church Canada is one of seven collaborative partners in an Anabaptist response to violent conflict in the Kasai region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo). Food, household items and shelter supplies will soon reach some of the 1.4 million people displaced by a conflict that has largely been overlooked by media.

The response, shaped and implemented by Congolese Mennonite and Mennonite Brethren church-based relief committees, is being coordinated by Mennonite Central Committee (MCC).

The crisis began a year ago when a local militia group called Kamuina Nsapu and national security forces clashed over a political appointment. The armed conflict has escalated, and both militia and security forces have targeted civilians with forced conscription, mutilation, rape and mass killings.

“It’s been hell on earth for a lot of our people, not only Mennonite people, but many peace-loving people in the same area that have gotten caught up in this maelstrom,” said Rod Hollinger-Janzen of Africa Inter-Mennonite Mission (AIMM).

Among the displaced in DR Congo are at least 8,000 Mennonites. Many churches are caught in the conflict. “There is no place where this conflict has gone where there are no Mennonite churches,” said Hollinger-Janzen.

Church leaders report that 36 Mennonites have been killed, among the UN-estimated 3,300 deaths since October last year. Church buildings and church schools have been damaged or destroyed.

National and local church leaders in DR Congo are key to the response, which will initially focus around the cities of Tshikapa in Kasai Province and Kikwit in Kwilu Province, where many people have fled. The leaders represent Communauté Mennonite au Congo (CMCo; Mennonite Church of Congo) and Communauté Evangelique des Freres Mennonites au Congo (CEFMC; Evangelical Mennonite Brethren Church of Congo).

In recent years, Mennonite Church Canada has helped support members of CMCo congregations with seed funding to start up small scale business and agricultural projects, said Hippo Tshimanga, director of Africa ministries. “It’s heart rending to know that in addition to deaths and violence, the efforts of so many hard working individuals seeking to improve their situations are being compromised by this conflict,” he added.

A Congolese assessment team visited the Kasai region in July and found a severe lack of food and increasing malnutrition. Families had to leave their fields and animals when they fled the violence, and any food that is available for purchase is very expensive.

“Many people are going hungry or eating once a day,” said Mulanda Jimmy Juma, MCC representative in DR Congo.

In addition, families lack basic supplies such as bedding, kitchen tools and cans for carrying water, the assessment team reported.

Organizations collaborating to raise funds and awareness of the crisis in DR Congo are: International Community of Mennonite Brethren, Mennonite Brethren Mission, Mennonite Church Canada Witness, Mennonite Mission Network and Mennonite World Conference, in addition to AIMM and MCC.

Contributions to the emergency response may be made online at www.mcccanada.ca/congo-relief or by phone, 1-888-622-6337. Cheques may be mailed to your local MCC office. 

Photo Credits: 
Joseph Nkongolo