Congo-Kinshasa (MNN) — The Congo is growing tense as the United Nations' peacekeeping mandate expires on April 15. At this time, the UN Security Council has to decide whether to extend, change, or end the mission, with almost 20,000 civilian and military personnel–the largest peacekeeping force in the world.
If it ends, the prospect of peacekeeping troops leaving the border areas means unrest is possible. Early indicators of how seriously the situation could degenerate came last week when clashes between government troops and forces loyal to opposition leader and former warlord Jean-Pierre Bemba left at least 150 people dead.
The UN came into Congo in 1999 to help enforce the first of many failed peace accords. This past December, the UN helped monitor the Congo's first free democratic elections in more than 40 years.
It appears their work is done, but in certain areas peace remains elusive. The looming pullout deadline has some hoping that more progress would be made toward lasting stability.
At this point, areas nearest the borders are the most chaotic. That is enough to prompt a request for an extension of the mandate. With such a massive peacekeeping force in place, it would seem obvious whatever their intent.
Yet Grace Ministries' Sam Vinton says there's no sign of an operation closure. "I talked to my son in Congo, and he said that at this stage of the ballgame they don't see very much movement of any kind of withdrawal. To face reality, as far as logistics, it's going to take a while to be able to [withdraw], even after they say 'you're supposed to leave.'"
The interior is still relatively peaceful, but Vinton is concerned over the potential impact on their evangelistic work. "It naturally will affect the ministry, especially where our missionaries themselves are involved because they have to travel. I believe that's the whole issue of our prayers: for our leadership to sense the responsibility that they are there not for themselves but for the people of the country."
Congo is GMI's oldest and largest mission field. Four missionaries work with Grace Church in Congo in the areas of evangelism, church planting, education, literature, medical work, and community development projects.
Leaders for over 500 churches are trained in their fully-accredited Theological College, Pastors' School, and 16 Bible institutes. And there's a large medical center with two Congolese doctors functioning in a Muslim area where there is a focus on planting churches in the surrounding unreached people groups.
It's evident that there's a lot at stake, should the region deteriorate into instability and civil war. Vinton again urges prayer for their teams. Click here if you want more information on how you can help.