When conflict meets the Gospel in the Democratic Republic of Congo

By May 25, 2018

Democratic Republic of Congo (MNN) — It’s not common knowledge, but that doesn’t make it any less true; there’s a crisis in Congo. Bruce Smith of Wycliffe Associates says tensions are rising and people are suffering.

“There’s basically evacuations and refugees that are spilling out of the Democratic Republic of Congo, especially into neighboring Uganda, because of violence that’s going on in the eastern part of the country again,” he said. Recently, violence has broken out between farmers and other landowners fighting over territory.

Photo Courtesy Wycliffe Associates

“This is just part of a seemingly endless cycle of tribal animosity and tribal battles that have been going on for generations.”

And constant conflict means it’s hard to establish long-term ministry. Four million people have been forced to leave their homes in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and “Any time you have that number of people that are forced out of their home areas and essentially forced to become squatters in new areas, you’re going to have tensions that surface.”

When conflict comes from religion, politics, family history, tribal allegiances, land ownership, and more, there are plenty of reasons the situation could become volatile. However, Smith says there is a force that can reconcile so many differences; the Word of God.

Photo Courtesy Wycliffe Associates

Wycliffe Associates reaches out to specific groups and areas to find out if that group might be interested in a translation for their own language. “As they individually and separately respond to us, without knowing that their enemies have similarly done so, by God’s providence they end up at the same workshops at the same time in the same place,” Smith said.

And often, their desire for God’s Word supersedes conflict.

“Their individual or their respective thirst for God’s Word draws them together to a place where they can be equipped to steward God’s Word for their people,” Smith said. “Inevitably, barriers fall and reconciliation happens. We happen to be on the site when it occurs, but it’s really all the power of the Holy Spirit at work.”

Every workshop begins with prayer, worship, and reflection. “They’re worshipping together in the same room and the same place, they’re reading and reflecting on Scripture together and hearing one another share from their own languages and from their own experiences, and these things just dissipate the tensions they had before,” Smith said. “They’re working together on translation issues.”

Their teamwork helps streamline the process of translation. Because many of the languages Wycliffe Associates is dealing with are unwritten, they have to give translators common language audio versions of the Bible and let them record their translations.

“They’re able to do this without any written intermediate steps,” Smith explained. “They don’t have to be taught how to write, they don’t have to be taught literacy, how to read, those kinds of things. Instead, they can go from an audio source to an oral translation in one easy step.”

Bible Translation Recording Kit (Photo Courtesy Wycliffe Associates)

Once they’ve done those translations, other language speakers can help make suggestions and edits for the translations. Finally, Wycliffe Associates will piece it all together to create one full translation.

Thanks to the collaboration of once-hostile groups, Wycliffe Associates is translating faster than ever, they have plans to finish off 69 more translations in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

But there’s a problem.

“The reality is, we have the partners in place in the DRC, we have the trainers in place within our team, we have the technological tools that are already existing, and the remaining ingredient in this is simply finances,” Smith said.

The organization still needs $1.3 million to start the translations. Consider how you can help and pray as God’s Word brings reconciliation to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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