While their country is rocked to its core by conflict and hardship, our partners in the Congo are working to support and build up their churches and communities.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began, many wondered if it would have relatively little impact in Africa. The majority of countries and cities there had no active cases. The move to close international borders, however, has proved to be extremely detrimental to African nations’ economies.
The D.R. Congo has been no exception. Already hard hit by the Ebola virus, the whole country has suffered from economic hardship and panic over this new disease.
To make matters worse, Islamic extremists in a group called the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) have risen up to capitalize on the preoccupation of the government’s military and general chaos. “The situation is so bad on this side,” World Challenge’s partner, Noe reported. “The ADF are killing people every day in villages surrounding Beni town, and many of our church members are displaced people and are going through very critical situation.”
The Congo hosts one of the highest number of internal refugees, people who have fled their villages but still remained in the country. This newest set of hardships has frightened many who are now wondering if they will ever be able to return home.
The Growing Plight of Congo’s People
In response to COVID, all the surrounding nations closed their borders to travelers, Burundi since March 15th, Rwanda since the 21st and Uganda since the 23rd. These decisions have cut transport routes regularly used by locals to trade their goods.
To compound this, provincial authorities have decided to close access roads to the main urban centers of the region, namely the cities Goma, Butembo and Beni.
The sharp loss of economic activity as well as prices for basic necessities steadily climbing has cause serious distress. “On March 26, shortly after the closing of the borders,” Noe explained, “inflation was already reaching a 5 to 88 percent increase for basic necessities according to KST data in Goma.”
Recently, Congolese church leaders made an official appeal to local authorities and international peacekeeping organizations: “The National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO) is very concerned about the socio-security situation in the east of our country, particularly in the Provinces of North Kivu and South Kivu because of the resurgence of violence and killings. Massive displacement of families has only worsened the suffering of an already impoverished and traumatized people.
“Entire villages and communities are distressed by kidnappings, the almost permanent presence of armed groups and the Ebola virus.”
As much as possible, they want to find a way to protect their people who have already suffered and endured so much.
Working to Rebuild the Church
World Challenge partners like Noe and others have been bringing churches together to support one another in this time of crisis. They have created a fund to support pastors so that these men can continue to minister to their churches without having to worry about how they will feed and care for their own families.
They have also worked on building clean water sources for several communities. This not only allows them to reduce the chances of locals catching COVID but also keeps these people safer from more mundane water-borne illnesses.
They are also developing innovative farming techniques with other communities that will help keep families fed even while marketplaces are closed.
“On the behalf of our pastors and district bishops,” Noe wrote, “I want to present our thanks to World Challenge and to you all who understood and assisted us during these hard days we are going through. This is the first humanitarian assistance pastors receive from a partner since we came to the Beni region. Thanks a lot and stay blessed.”