Inaugural “Peace Train” ride carries people, produce & hope to Africa.

By June 29, 2004

Congo-Kinshasa (MNN)–The fanfare surrounding the Democratic Republic of Congo’s ‘Peace Train’ is mounting.

The train departed from Lubumbashi in the Katanga Province June 25 and ends with a fanfare celebration in Kindu, Maniema Province today, June 29.

Food for the Hungry and its partners, CARE International, Catholic Relief Services and its local partner Caritas-Congo, and Concern Worldwide began working together on the USAID-funded project to restore nearly 490 kilometers (nearly 300 miles) of railway destroyed by war.

The project included clearing overgrowth, removing mud, soil and other debris from the tracks in addition to straightening bent rails.

Eight railway stations have been rebuilt and communication equipment reinstalled. Along the railroad, the tracks were bombed during the war, equipment and buildings were pillaged and most services were suspended. Inactivity, along with floods and erosion, has allowed vegetation to grow unchecked; even trees now prevent the passage of trains.

Another major task was rebuilding the Zofu railroad bridge, a key structure that now allows foot traffic and wheeled vehicles to cross the river.

Food For The Hungry played a key role in the repairs. Congo Director Michael Satin. “We’re greeted by hundreds of townspeople and villagers who are excited to see the train rolling again. There’s a sense of electricity in the air everywhere we stop. There’s most certainly a celebration going on all along the railroad tracks. Even in towns where we don’t stop, people are dancing along the tracks; children are cheering us on and clapping.”

Satin says that because the railway symbolizes peace and community, that opens the door for the hope of Christ. “It’s a very exciting time, and everywhere we go it seems everybody knows pretty much what’s happening. We’re excited to be here. God is most certainly moving people’s hearts as well as the fact that we hope this will move them to a better living standard.”

The train has made stops at each train station along the railway, delivering relief-assistance packages to families who live in nearby villages. United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) has been organizing relief efforts of all participating humanitarian organizations.

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