Akron, Pennsylvania, USA – A collaborative Anabaptist response will soon reach some of the 1.4 million people displaced by armed conflict in the Kasai region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo) with food, household items and shelter supplies.
The response, shaped and implemented by Congolese Mennonite and Mennonite Brethren church-based relief committees and coordinated by Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), is supported by Mennonite World Conference (MWC) and other Anabaptist church organizations.
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 people displaced in DR Congo are at least 8,000 Mennonites. “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 Mennonite leaders in DR Congo – from MWC member churches – 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 des Églises de Frères Mennonites au Congo (CEFMC; Mennonite Brethren Church of Congo).
“MWC is playing in important role today: that of bringing the members of our Mennonite family together to promote unity and fellowship and to support one member who is suffering (the Congolese Mennonites,) using its arm embodied by the various partners, united in action so that they are more efficient,” says a Congolese church leader (name withheld for security reasons). “Through this action, Mennonites will be able to share the Mennonite values that are almost unheard of in the Congo. I think that our churches will enlarge their tent.”
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 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.
“MWC supports the Mennonite national churches CMCo, CEFMC and Communauté Evangélique Mennonite, and those in Angola who are also helping Congolese refugees,” says Deacon Commission secretary Henk Stenvers. “MWC links our struggling members to the global church with calls for prayer, financial support and by sharing information about the situation.”
Seven Anabaptist organizations are working together to raise funds and awareness of the crisis, which has been largely ignored by Western media. They are International Community of Mennonite Brethren, MB Mission, Mennonite Church Canada Witness, and Mennonite Mission Network, in addition to MWC, AIMM and MCC.
Contributions to the emergency response in DR Congo may be made online at mcc.org/congo-relief.
– an MCC release with files from MWC.
As you pray for brothers and sisters suffering violence and displacement in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mennonite World Conference invites your messages of encouragement and solidarity to share with our churches there.
Take a picture with your congregation and a sign labelled “Prions pour la RDC” (Pray for the DRC). Please email messages and photographs to firstname.lastname@example.org and post on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) with the hashtag #mwcmm.