Washington, D.C. (BWA) — Baptist World Aid, the relief and development arm of the Baptist World Alliance, has provided $30,000 for relief in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The grant is offered in the wake of recent fighting between government and rebel forces in the mineral rich country that has displaced an estimated 250,000 persons. Millions were already displaced in the DRC and bordering countries such as Uganda, Burundi and Rwanda as a result of the Second Congo War waged between 1998 and 2003, as well as other flare-ups since the official end of that war. The Second Congo War resulted in the deaths of an estimated four million people.
The latest fighting began in late October in the province of North Kivu in eastern DRC when a rebel group, the National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP), engaged the Congolese army and Mai-Mai pro-government militias and captured territories close to Goma, capital of North Kivu.
Baptists have been affected by the conflict. Robert Bruce Paden of the Evangelical Community of Baptist Churches of Eastern Congo (CEBCE) reported that “the Baptist church community has been devastated by the war that has been raging in eastern Congo.” He estimates that “eighty percent of the pastors and people in our churches have fled because of the fighting in their areas, and thus many CEBCE churches are no longer functioning for this reason.”
Athanase Habimana, president of the Union of Baptist Churches of DRC (UEBC), informed the BWA that “there are 17 brothers arrested” by the Coalition of Congolese Patriotic Resistance, an opposition group, the CNDP, “and the regular army saying this one or that one collaborates with this or that group.”
CNDP, the rebel group, and Mai-Mai pro-government militias have been accused of raping young girls and women and forcing children to join their forces. Habimana said that “many children are now soldiers in rebel factions,” including the child of a Baptist pastor, and that parents who refuse to hand over their children are killed. Government forces are also accused of rapes and looting.
The BWAid grant will be shared equally between three groups: CEBCE, UEBC and the Baptist Community in Central Africa. The money will be used to provide food, water and shelter for displaced persons.