The following is a news release from The United Church of Canada:
Thursday, November 13, 2008
The United Church of Canada is calling on its members to take action in support of the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The church’s call to action comes in response to growing concerns over the ongoing conflict and humanitarian crisis unfolding in the eastern province of North Kivu. Fighting between armed rebel groups and the armed forces of the DRC recently escalated in the east with attacks on Goma, the capital of the province of North Kivu.
The United Church of Canada’s partner in the region, Église du Christ au Congo (ECC), is working with other agencies to provide humanitarian relief and offer shelter in churches and homes for those seeking refuge.
"The humanitarian situation in North Kivu is catastrophic,” says the Rev. Milenge Mwenelwata. “More than 1.5 million people are without shelter, food, and water, and are displaced each day with no destination, fleeing hostilities. The population is without assistance.”
In October, renewed violence drove 250,000 people from their homes, adding to the million-and-a-half people already displaced in the province, almost one-third of its population. Since 1998, an estimated five million people have died in the DRC from conflict and related consequences. Rape, forced prostitution, and abduction of civilians as sex slaves are widespread. Perpetrators of these crimes mostly go unpunished.
The causes of this long-standing conflict are complex, and include a breakdown of the state, the legacies of Mobutu Sese Seko’s 31-year regime, the lingering aftermath of the genocide in neighbouring Rwanda, and competition over the DRC’s vast natural resources.
The Amani Program (amani is Swahili for peace), signed during the Goma conference in January 2008, established a disarmament and demobilization process and laid the foundations for a reconstruction program in the region. All the Congolese armed groups, including the Congrès National pour la Défense du Peuple (CNDP), accepted it. In early October, the CNDP reneged on its promises and renewed its military operations.
“The people of Congo are yearning for peace,” explains Wendy Gichuru, The United Church of Canada’s regional coordinator for East and Central Africa. “This new crisis is undermining their advances toward peace and democratization, which had been supported in large part by the international community and Canada.”
Gichuru adds that the United Church has already allocated some emergency response funding to support partners’ humanitarian and relief efforts in the region.
Through Église du Christ au Congo and Action by Churches Together (ACT) International, the first interventions have concentrated on water supply, small-scale food and other assistance, and supply of medicine to the looted medical facilities of the area. Despite the lack of humanitarian access, several ACT International members have been able to deliver some initial assistance.
The United Church is also participating in the ecumenical coalition KAIROS’ appeal to the Canadian government to actively work for peace and justice for the Congolese people.
The United Church’s call to action for the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo is asking church members to
• write to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, calling on Canada to actively support peace and respect for human rights in the Democratic Republic of Congo. [Note: a sample letter and mailing addresses are available on the UCC website.]
• pray for the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo as they strive for peace and harmony in their country.
• contribute to the United for Peace Campaign, increase support to the Mission and Service Fund, or earmark a designated donation to the “Eastern DRC Crisis.” Individuals can either donate online at www.united-church.ca or mail cheques to Financial Services Unit, The United Church of Canada, 3250 Bloor St. West, Suite 300, Toronto, ON M8X 2Y4. (More detail on the website.)
For details regarding this call to action for the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo, please visit The United Church of Canada’s website at www.united-church.ca.