Baptists in Congo seek help for ministry to refugees

Congo

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DALLAS—A Baptist group in the Democratic Republic of Congo has appealed for help in its ministry to refugees, and an expatriate pastor in Texas wants to answer the call.

Katakya Mutahinga, president of the Community of Baptist Churches of Eastern Congo, has written a proposal outlining how the 300 churches he represents can adopt 500 families who have fled from violence that has consumed much of rural eastern Congo. Churches are seeking to provide refugees with food, basic shelter and health care, but he stressed the small Baptist group needs assistance from churches in the West.

Kambale Simisi, pastor of African Community Church, a Baptist congregation in Dallas, recognizes the plight of the Congolese. He grew up in Kiwanja, where at least 150 civilians were killed in November, according to Human Rights Watch.



Simisi still has relatives living there, with whom he stays in close contact. His mother lives in Goma, the provincial capital in the nation formerly known as Zaire. Many members of his congregation in Dallas also originally lived in Central Africa, although most came to the United States by way of refugee camps in East Africa.

People who remain in Congo and those who have left that part of Africa describe rampant violence—revenge killings, mutilation, rape, and the abduction and forced conscription of children into fighting forces, Simisi noted.

“There are thousands and thousands of mass graves in eastern Congo,” he said.



While some outside observers have attributed violence in Congo to tribal differences, noting the nation is home to more than 300 tribes, Simisi believes the real sources of conflict primarily are economic and political—multinational corporations vying for valuable mineral interests and political upheaval that has spilled over from neighboring Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi.

“The root cause is economic—money and the control of mineral resources in key areas,” he said, pointing particularly to coltan, a key component used in cell phones and some other electronics.

Multinational corporations that want to control the sought-after mineral have manipulated longstanding tribal differences and taken advantage of the unrest fostered by the genocide in Rwanda 15 years ago. More than 2 million Rwandans resettled in eastern Congo—both those who escaped the killings and some who were instrumental in carrying them out, Simisi noted.


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As a result of the conflict transplanted to eastern Congo, about 2.5 million people in that area have been displaced, he explained. He quotes sources who estimate total casualties in Congo exceed 5 million.

The displaced people include a large percentage of widows, orphans and people who have been left disabled by the violence, Simisi said.

“The churches are doing what they can to minister, but they don’t have the resources,” he said.



Simisi hopes to lead mission groups from the United States who will undergird the work of Baptists in Congo as they serve refugees. While he describes the situation in isolated rural areas as “just chaos,” Simisi stressed Americans should be secure serving in Goma. For more information, contact Simisi at (214) 780-6495, (214) 823-8216 or ksimisi@yahoo.com.

 


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