“I will not forget you”

Democratic Republic of the Congo

“I will not forget you”

By Charles Kwuelum

Amidst all of the headlines these days, little attention is being paid to the crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo).

In August 2016, violence broke out in the Kasai region when the Kamuina Nsapu, a local militia group, engaged in a clash with national security forces. The clash was partly due to the local appointment of a traditional chief, seen by many as a way to influence land rights and traditional values. The Kasai region is the birthplace of the Mennonite Church in DR Congo.

In Kele village near Tshikapa in Kasai Province, DR Congo, internally displaced people answer questions posed by an assessment team providing input for a collaborative Anabaptist response. Photo: Joseph Nkongolo

The violence displaced 1.4 million people within the region, and another 33,000 have fled to the neighboring country of Angola adding to the growing number of 65.6 million people forcibly displaced worldwide by violent conflicts and natural disasters like drought and famine.

The people displaced by the conflict are in dire need of humanitarian assistance as many lack food, clean water, basic health care and psychosocial support. The country is also struggling with an outbreak of cholera that has resulted in more than 500 deaths. But the response thus far from the international community has been inadequate. The United Nations says that only one-fifth of the funds needed have been received.

Compounding these challenges is controversy over elections. A peace agreement brokered at the end of 2016 promised a presidential election would take place this year. But the electoral commission recently announced that elections will not be held until December 2018. This has heightened political tensions and led to some outbreaks of violence.

As believers we are called to do good and share with others, loving each other as God has loved us (Hebrews 13:16; John 15:12). Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) accompanies the Anabaptist church in DR Congo in responding to the needs of those affected by the conflict in Kasai; the initial response includes distribution of food, hygiene items, and tarps to 300 displaced families. Partners in the effort include Africa Inter-Mennonite Mission, International Community of Mennonite Brethren, MB Mission, Mennonite Church Canada Witness, Mennonite Mission Network, and Mennonite World Conference.

But churches and organizations cannot respond alone. Wealthy nations like the U.S. and others must do more to help the world’s poorest countries, including DR Congo, by increasing humanitarian assistance.

Ask your members of Congress to support global poverty programs. Then consider contributing to MCC’s Kasai emergency response to help families displaced by violence in the Kasai region. This tangible support serves as a reminder of God’s reassurance that “I will not forget you” (Isaiah 49:15).

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