Pray for peace in DR Congo
Since the Second Congo War (1998-2003) – which involved nine countries and 20 armed groups, and left over five million dead and two million displaced – the DR Congo has continued to endure violence perpetrated by dozens of rebel groups. Multigenerational ethnic rivalries, greed over “blood diamonds” and other “conflict minerals”, extreme food insecurity, and political turmoil fuel the worsening crisis. Although President Joseph Kabila’s term expired at the end of 2016, the general elections have been delayed until December 2018, leading to ongoing protests and violent suppression.
Langham Scholar Dr George Pirwoth Atido serves as President of Shalom University of Bunia (USB) in DR Congo. USB seeks to train “future leaders of integrity” who are “ready to transform their society with spiritual and academic excellence.” It is located in the northeastern Ituri province, where the fighting is fierce. The school needs prayer as faculty, staff, and students minister to around 180,000 displaced Congolese who have fled to refugee camps in Bunia.
Unusually tense political situation
George says: “Many thanks for your concern and sympathy for us and for our situation. The social and political situation in DR Congo has been unusually tense for months, as the legal ruling time of the current president expired on December 31, 2017. This has stirred several reactions, of which the most important is that of the Catholic Church. Their demonstrations, which may continue, have resulted in several deaths as the government is trying to suppress such initiatives.
“We also have several rebel groups operating in several areas, including in Bunia. Insecurity, armed robbery, and unlawful ways of exacting justice are recurrent. In December, a longstanding conflict between the Lendu and Hema tribal communities in nearby villages escalated into killing and the burning of houses. A good number of families have fled to Uganda and to Bunia, where we have welcomed around 180,000 displaced people. About 44,000 of them are living under temporary tents, while 136,000 others are hosted by local families or sheltering in public buildings, such as churches. A few members of the Shalom personnel are hosting dozens of people.
“With about 180,000 displaced people, Bunia has become a place of tension and several political activities. The Minister of Home Affairs and the Minister of Defense have spent weeks in Bunia. A special army unit from Kinshasa has been deployed to Bunia as we await a visit from the president.
Volatile and unpredictable
“The truth is that the situation in Congo is volatile and unpredictable. We have been going through this endless turmoil for decades and strive to do what we can in the meantime. People in Bunia now fear an assault on the town. Thus, we have lost some students, who have fled from Bunia. However, we have at present observed a relative calm and are not anticipating a serious mess in the near future.
“It is however important to continue praying for us and for DR Congo in general as we approach the controversial election planned for the end of this year. At that time, we may experience more trouble. So far, according to some political analysts, the upcoming election seems to be the main hidden cause behind these commotions.
“Please pray for the internally displaced people in Bunia, including thousands of children and women, of whom about 250 are pregnant. Though the displaced people are getting some food donations, a number of the children are already malnourished.
Pray for provisions
“Please pray for provisions for the whole region. Living has become expensive, as those who have fled from the villages were mainly farmers who supply food to Bunia and beyond. We may experience food shortages in the months to come.
“Pray for me and for the University management committee to discern right decisions each time we need to provide direction. Please pray for the University’s community to stand in unity and love in such a time.
“Finally, please pray for protection and peace of mind in Christ for our families and community. Please pray for churches to stand up and provide encouraging Christian witness in this context. Please pray for political and social breakthrough in the country.”Africa, Bunia, DR Congo, Dr. George Pirwoth Atido, Langham Scholars, Scholars