Violence has recently gotten worse in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I was on a call a few days ago during which we learned of tens of thousands of displaced people, about two thousand of whom are now seeking help near a hospital in Bunia. The Reverend Bisoke Balikenga sent us the photos you see here of families in Bunia in need of food, water, firewood, bedding, and schools for the children. We are coordinating our aid efforts through Episcopal Relief and Development.
Since 2015, I have been a part of the Congo Network group of the Episcopal Church. The group is chaired by the Rev. Canon Dr. Isaac Kawuki Mukasa (Africa Relations, Episcopal Church). I was nominated to join the Congo Network group by my Bishop, the Right Rev. Mary Gray-Reeves (of the Episcopal Diocese of El Camino Real, California). We meet by phone and online about quarterly to share information and coordinate support work. I have been taking the Congo Network minutes.
There is small awareness in the United States about the size and severity of the Congo’s humanitarian crisis. Little news is published, mostly by non-US media and organizations:
- ‘I knew I had to get out’ of DR Congo (BBC, 17 Feb 2018)
- The Elders call for urgent action on political and humanitarian crises in DR Congo (Kofi Annan Foundation, 15 Feb 2018)
- Congo is sliding back to bloodshed (The Economist, 15 Feb 2018)
- DRC violence risks ‘spreading’ as 22,000 flee in a week (Al Jazeera, 14 Feb 2018)
- Congo’s mega-crisis at deadly tipping point (Norwegian Refugee Council, 14 Feb 2018)
- Congolese refugees perish as growing numbers seek safety in Uganda (United Nations Refugee Agency, 13 Feb 2018)
- Congo’s Slide Into Chaos (Foreign Affairs, January/February 2018)
- DR Congo conflict leaves 400,000 children malnourished (Al Jazeera, 23 Jan 2018)
- DR Congo displacement crisis ‘worse than Middle East’ (BBC, 6 Dec 2017)
However, if I did not know about it directly from the Congo Network, I may not have heard about this crisis at all. I have to go searching for news of the Congo – it does not appear in my regular news sources. I have never been so aware of the limitations of the US media and how news is distributed.
Congo is about 70% Christian and many of the displaced people are seeking help from their churches. Pope Francis has raised awareness by holding a day of prayer and fasting on 23 February for those in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan.
If you would like to help displaced people in the Congo, please donate to Episcopal Relief and Development (designate your donation to DRC).
Photos copyright 2018 by the Rev. Bisoke Balikenga – used with permission.
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