Just a month ago, we asked you to stand in prayer for our CI community as we opened another academic year at the Université Chrétienne Bilingue du Congo (UCBC). God answered. We enrolled 155 new students [who joined 200 returning students] and celebrated as all of CI’s programs continued their crucial work of equipping transformational leaders and serving the local community through education, entrepreneurship, professional sectors, and churches.
Today we ask for your prayers again on behalf of Beni. Our town was brutally attacked twice in the last 6 days. The armed group who is responsible for killing civilians in the Beni territory since 2014, made incursions into Beni and into our neighboring town of Oicha. Over 75 of the most vulnerable inhabitants were killed in the last 3 weeks. Last night, a son of one of our campus guards and a member of our contractor’s construction crew was killed near our main campus.
These attacks come in the midst of a major military offensive that aims to take out the armed group’s bases established deep in the forest east of Beni. Unfortunately, the army’s victories in the forest have not dismantled the armed group or prevented their violent reprisals on civilians. Citizens are furious and their protests this last week have also turned violent. Three lives have also been lost during the protests.
Today, security forces were unable to contain protesters, who set fire to the Mayor’s Office in Beni and one of the major UN peacekeeper bases, forcing an evacuation of UN personnel to their airport base. This reveals the anger and frustration of a frightened population who does not trust these security forces to protect them.
In another tragedy, a small plane owned by a local airline crashed on its way from Goma to Beni yesterday, and over 25 people lost their lives. Four of them were civil and local government leaders from Beni territory who were strategic partners of our Bethesda Counseling Center and Sharing the Land program.
We ask for your prayer because we know our God is bigger than this destruction and loss of life. Nothing is hidden from our God. Though we do not see clearly and our hearts are broken, we choose to believe that this chapter is not the end of the story for the people of Beni. Indeed, Jesus, the Risen One, has spoken: “Behold, I am making all things new.” We know we are called to be a part of that new story in action and prayer.
So, please join us in bringing these requests before God:
• Protection of civilians in Beni and Oicha, including the CI community. We have temporarily suspended activities for staff and students’ safety.
• Complete dismantling of the armed group causing destruction.
• Wisdom and dialogue among civil and military authorities who are responsible to protect the city and also respond to violent protestors.
• Comfort and grace for grieving families.
• God’s name to be known and glorified.
David M. Kasali, PhD
President, Congo Initiative