Crisis in Congo

Harvesters received word from Pastor Habimana last week that fighting has again flared up in close proximity to Goma, North Kivu District, where he lives with his family and where the ministry of the Union of Baptist Churches (UBC) is headquartered.

The pastor and his family are safe, but the ministry and its congregations have been greatly affected as people have fled into the forests to escape the clashing parties. Communication is difficult as congregations are uprooted and scattered.

Congo has been in the midst of what has been referred to as the “World’s Deadliest War” (Time, June 2006) with an estimated 5.4 million people dying since the conflict began in 1998. It could also be referred to as a “Silent War” because the world media has given it very little coverage.

Reuters and the IRC both report that “More than 850,000 people have been forced from their homes by fighting in North Kivu since late 2006, in one of the world’s worst conflict-driven humanitarian disasters.”

There was hope that the fighting would diminish when a peace agreement was signed in January 2008. However, war and violence continue to be a way of life in eastern Congo despite the efforts of the more than 17,000 UN peacekeeping troops stationed in the area.

The fighting became especially bad on August 28, 2008 when UN peacekeeping troops fired on rebel fighters of Laurent Nkunda’s National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) in Sake, a town approximately 20 kilometers northwest of Goma.

Pastor Habimana remains in good spirits despite the difficult circumstances, uncertainty and the realization that his countrymen, fellow believers and colleagues are suffering in the midst of this conflict.

The Pastor’s message to Ed Hirshman, however, expressed for the first time a sense of fear that Goma may be taken by rebel forces. Up to this point, the fighting has remained outside of Goma-proper, which has been somewhat of a refuge.

Pastor Habimana has requested our prayers that the fighting would not reach Goma and that he and the ministry of UBC can minister to the needs of those affected by the current crisis. Pray that churches would remain strong and retain their commitment to outreach despite the dispersal of congregations throughout the area.

We are far removed from this conflict, but we are connected to it through Pastor Habimana and the men and women with whom he ministers in and through this crisis. We can help with our prayers and we can help with our finances. Please consider helping in both areas.