TSHIKAPA, Congo — Violence in the Kasaï region has diminished during the past year, but the economic struggles that inspired the fighting persist. An alliance of international Anabaptist organizations continues responding to needs.
From mid-2016 through 2017, as many as 5,000 people died and an estimated 1.5 million were forced from their homes due to violence perpetrated by Kamuina Nsapu rebels, Bana Mura militia and the army of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
About 1.5 million people fled into the forest and eventually found their way to the relative safety of cities.
Hundreds of thousands of people are displaced in Kasaï province, where the Mennonite Church of Congo is located, and in Lomami province, where the Evangelical Mennonite Church is based. Kikwit province, where the Mennonite Brethren Church of Congo is based, has also seen an influx of displaced people.
Agricultural production has been severely disrupted, and 3.2 million people remain without sufficient food.
The social and economic conditions that led to the violence have not changed, said Rod Hollinger-Janzen, executive coordinator of Africa Inter-Mennonite Mission, who has visited Kasaï three times since 2016.
“There needs to be positive investment in the future of this region through spiritual renewal, peacemaking and community reconstruction, economic development and job creation in order for people’s hopes to be renewed,” he said.
Congolese Mennonites continue to work with the Inter-Mennonite Kasaï Relief Project, which is led by Mennonite Central Committee and supported by seven other organizations, including Mennonite Mission Network.
During the past year, churches in Kabwela, Kikwit and Tshikapa have worked with the relief project, which includes providing food, education, farming supplies and trauma-healing workshops.
In November 2017 the churches began distribution of food, hygiene items and tarps to 460 households and have continued with food since April.
Food distribution, paid for through MCC’s account at the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, will continue through March.
Seven hundred families will use pigs or the tools, seeds and land provided through the project to start supporting themselves.
Congolese churches used funds from the supporting groups to buy school supplies and uniforms and pay school fees for about 950 children.
Trauma-healing practitioners taught 17 displaced people from the Kasaï churches how to lead trauma-healing workshops.
They help people talk about traumatic experiences and grieve with each other before thinking about how to move on with their lives.
Through mid-November, 158 donors have contributed $91,293 to Inter-Mennonite Kasaï Relief Project through MMN.
To contribute, text CONGOFUND to 71777 or visit mennonitemission.net/donate/causes/Congo%20emergency.
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