On Wednesday January 25th, a bomb exploded in the Macampagne market in Beni injuring 17 people. Just a week earlier on January 15th, a bomb detonated during Sunday service at a Pentecostal church in Kasindi killing 15 people and injuring dozens of others. The village of Makugwe was also attacked. 23 people were killed and three others are missing. Women and children are among the dead. Although the perpetrators of these attacks remain unclear, they are attributed to the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), an armed group that originated in Uganda but has been based in the DRC since the late 1990s.
Near our provincial capital of Goma, about 220 miles south of Beni, the re-emergence of an armed group known as the M23 has escalated political tension between Congo and Rwanda. To the north, in the Ituri province, the United States has uncovered mass graves where ethnic tensions have often fueled violence. Despite the efforts of the DRC government, protracted violence continues in eastern Congo. The human toll has been extensive. According to the Kivu Security Tracker, 3,316 people have been killed since the beginning of last year. The number of internally displaced persons has risen to 3.8 million.
Fueling the insecurity are the competition for control and exploitation of eastern DRC’s vast natural resources including the cobalt and coltan needed for batteries that power electronics, cellphones, renewable energy and cars; a profound level of mistrust between DRC and its neighbors; and increasing misinformation and weak socio-political and economic institutions. Today, DRC’s population of over 90 million remains among the world’s most impoverished.
In recent years, Beni has been one of the most volatile areas in the east. It has weighed heavily on our community – staff, students, and those we serve. Yet, they remain hope-filled and resilient. They remain committed to the vision of “being transformed to transform.”
Congo Initiative began during times that were just as fragile as now. A civil war in Congo was still taking place as Congolese leaders and global partners gathered to pray and share passionately their desire to see peace and healing come. The desire to see a brighter future built by a new generation of leaders – one that gave witness to God’s peaceable kingdom. Congo Initiative was birthed in, and exists for, times like these.
Thanks to the support of many of you, glimpses of this future have been realized. From within Congo, we witness UCBC students and graduates create lasting change and serve their communities with integrity and compassion. Earlier this month, UCBC launched the 2023 academic year (UCBC’s 17th year)! The joy is visible on the faces of incoming students (pictured above). UCBC has never been just about academics, it’s been about forming a community of hope. As we’ve always stressed to the global community – the Congolese are not a hopeless people. Even though we may be shaken by such senseless and destructive acts of violence, radical and resilient hope continues to thrive.
We believe that through Jesus, we gain strength to bring renewal and restoration into this world. For us at CI, we have the privilege to partner with God and others to create a more peaceful and flourishing Congo. We do so while also not neglecting the hardship and trauma faced by those who have been most directly impacted by the bombings and conflicts. We do so through our prayers of lament. We do so by raising our voices and calling for local, national, and international actors to work for peace. We must build a better future with, and for, Congo’s rising generation – one characterized by the same hope that launched CI into existence.