Congo-Kinshasa (MNN) – Multiple conflicts in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo are creating a whole new group of vulnerable people.
The Uganda Red Cross Society said 66,000 Congolese refugees flooded in last month after the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) started attacking in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. As the masses crossed, their numbers raised security concerns that rebels could be hiding in their midst.
The military is concerned that al Qaeda-linked ADF could have gotten training from al Shabaab, the militant group operating in Somalia. Ugandan troops are trying to flush out possible ADF militia disguised as refugees.
Meanwhile, the conflict between the DRC national army (FARDC) and the M23 rebel group continues on the ground in eastern DRC.
Goma, and South and North Kivu now represent flashpoints for conflict in the DRC. The violence from these has created an estimated one million displaced. Non-Government Organizations think that there are over two million internally displaced persons (IDPs). Sadly, for many of these, being uprooted is not a new experience. Multiple displacements have become the norm of the last twenty years in DRC.
Baptist Global Response says most wound up taking refuge in two camps just outside Goma, on the northern shore of Lake Kivu. In a camp for displaced families near Goma, DRC, the situation for these IDPs (internally displaced people) was grim.
15,000 Congolese refugees have suffered without adequate food supplies since November 2012. Mark Hatfield is the BGR director for Sub Saharan Africa. While they have little contact on the field right now with partnering churches, he adds, “Partnering churches are receiving refugees, hosting them, trying to take care of their needs. Partners that we work through, who live in Rwanda and go back and forth, have carried out some feeding there in the last six months.”
Partners distributed food parcels to nearly 3,000 families. Another assessment is planned for October/November. The situation doesn’t look like it will be changing any time soon. More are arriving on a nearly daily basis. They all need help, desperately. “People have fled out of the rural areas into the smaller towns and cities in order to gain some security for their families. When they arrive, they arrive with only what they can carry on their backs.”
When they get to ‘safety’, it’s another hard slog. “A lot of times there isn’t official camps already set up, so they’re just trying to find shelter, they’re trying to find food for the day, they’re trying to find water for the day. A lot of times, it’s the local churches that they go to for help.”
Although DRC seems to have taken a backseat on the headlines, Hatfield says the
situation is dire for those in the line of fire. The lack of awareness is frustrating. “It is a chronic problem that’s been in the news for years and years and has gotten to be where it’s not very newsworthy. It’s not anything new. There’s a lot of burnout to this kind of situation in the U.S.”
The national and church partners are not really in the position to be handling the crisis alone, Hatfield adds. “These are people who, themselves, are living in poverty many times, and don’t have a margin in their lives to give to other people. But they give all that they can. It’s amazing to see the generosity of those who already live in poverty and how they give to those who are fleeing the war areas.”
However, he goes on to say it is precisely that generosity -the proverbial ‘cup of cold water in Jesus’ name’ –that creates Gospel opportunities. “All that we do, we do in the name of Jesus. That’s evident in working through the partners that we work through. So, the local churches take the lead in sharing their faith, and BGR would come alongside them and help them with resources in the area of food and hygiene products.”
Ask the Lord to help suffering Congolese know his love for them. “Pray for wisdom, for those who are trying to bring peace to that area. Pray for the ability of the local church and the nationals in border countries to not only meet the physical needs of people , but meet their spiritual needs, as well.”