What would you do if you lived in a country where children are taken from their family, husbands are murdered and the wives raped? What would you do if you lived in a region where up to 9 out of 10 women were raped as they try to gather firewood for their family? I want to spend this article writing on the beauty and ugliness of Congo and its people. But the point of the article is not to discuss the atrocities of the country; rather the point of this blog is to address the power of God’s people when united together.
“If the will is perverse, the movements, namely, of the passions, will be perverse also; but if the will is upright, not only are the passions blameless, but also truly praiseworthy”.Aquinas, Thomas, Treatise on the Virtues: Translated by John Oesterle (Indiana: University of Notre Dame, 1966) question LIII Article 3; Thomas Aquinas quotes Augustine of Hippo.
Where is our higher good? What is our higher good? Our will, and the will of our community are shaped by our perception of higher good, be it self or God. Please keep this in mind as I discuss the beauty and ugliness of Congo. In November 2013 I spent time in Congo on the latter ends of the Kivu Conflict. What I saw during that time was horrid yet lovely.
Congo has a history of conflict since the 17th and 18th century. King Leopold’s Belgium, colonial expansion, unjust rulers, The Rwandan Genocide and global demand have all impacted the Congo we know today. However with the bad comes the good. Although the historical impact of Congo has been perverted by the lusts of the flesh, it has also been met by the power of the gospel. In the depths of the madness we find seeds planted by God.
The Fight for Justice
I visited Congo during the civil war. I heard it said that if you take all the human rights issues found in the greater continent of Africa you would find them all in Congo. During my time in the DRC I was able to see the horrid effects of the conflict. I will limit my discussion to the refugee camps, but please understand that the conflict and results of the conflict go much deeper then my description. You have to understand the history of the war in order to understand why refugee camps exist.
The M23 faction, a spill over from the Rwandan Genocide, invaded North Kivu in order to reclaim land. As a weapon of war they would enter a village, kill all the men, take many of the children, and rape all the women at the same time. This drove a fear into the entire region, and instead of staying in villages, many fled to the safety of the refugee camps. This happened in many villages, and I was able to speak to three courageous women who lost their husbands, family, and purity yet still serve God with fervor and humility.
However in these refugee camps the women were certainly not safe. The UN provided food, however it was only 15 days worth and those in the refugee camps had nothing to cook the food with. As a result women would go into the surrounding woods to gather firewood. It was during this time that the rebel factions, M23, would prey upon the women. According to the UN 9 out of 10 women in these refugee camps have been raped. I heard many personal stories and it breaks your heart. You have to trust me the stories are extremely graphic and painful, and I am trying to keep this blog PG.
If men went to gather the firewood, they would have been killed by the M23 and many were. According to the DRC culture if a women is raped they are seen as a curse to the village, thus they are no longer allowed in the village nor are they allowed back in the family. So not only have women been robbed of their purity, but they also lost their families. Again this story goes much deeper, but I am hoping to give you a generic idea of the ugliness, before paving the way of God’s people.
God on the Move
On the counterbalance what I saw in response was a movement of God. Congo is a country with 230 different tribes and many of these tribes are in conflict with each other. There is not one conflict in Congo, there are many. Many pastors are also in conflict with each other; as a result many of the churches in the DRC are enemies.
However there is an organization called World Relief, and individuals like Marcel Serubungo/Charles Franzen, that have led the charge to unify the church. I am glossing over much of the story and history of this event, but Marcel was able to organize these pastors from different tribes for a conference. During the conference, God showed up, as a result there was a time of repentance, forgiveness and prayer. At the end of the conference there was a united church that was working together to combat the evils going on in the country.
The Congo church has been very strategic, careful and bold in their response. They have created Peace Keeping Committees, made up of volunteers to resolve conflict in a very corrupt society. They have promoted Godly unification and cooperation across tribal lines. They have and are creating programs that care for the abused women, but at the same time striking at the root of evil via peacekeeping committees. The work of the unified church, the work of the NGO’s and other organizations are making a very big impact on the region.
Unity on the Campus
The University of Texas and the respective campus ministries are in similar position regarding the church. Campus ministries are no longer working separate of each other. They are coming together in prayer, mission and vision in order to impact the campus and students with the power of the Gospel. This partnership brings a united vision, shared strategy, and common prayer. It is through uniting where we can become stronger in order to bring greater hope, peace and joy.
“There is no easy walk to freedom anywhere, and many of us will have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death again and again before we reach the mountaintop of our desires.” (Nelson Mandela)
Injustice will always exist in our world. The real question is will the goodness in each one of us rise up to meet injustice we see in the world. God is real. God has given within each one of us a will to choose his call or not. Evil and Satan are real, and his mission is to destroy. May we as a people come together to meet this evil head on, wearing the full amour of God and in the power of His Spirit.
May the students and campus ministries represented at the University of Texas continue to unite in prayer and mission in order push back the curtains of evil. Remember true justice is only found in the heart of God. “I have but one candle in life to burn, I would rather burn it in a land filled with darkness opposed to a land filled with light.”
Colby May is a father of two wonderful boys and husband of 13 years (Amanda May). He is been involved in campus ministry for over 15 years, much of that time in Austin TX. Colby is founder and president of LIT, a non profit organization leveraging energy consulting as a means to empower change (via the local church) in the most vulnerable countries. He recently spent two years in Boston completing is MA in Ethics & Society (Biblical Justice) from Gordon Conwell Seminary.