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Congo: Baptists Send Aid to this ‘Hot Spot’

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I often seem to be flying into places when others are flying out! There are just so many trouble spots in the world, frequently called “hot spots,” and yet we see, hear and read little of them. Those of us who have the privilege of traveling also have the responsibility of sharing with others the situations we find, see, hear, observe and respond to.

Our world is very self-centered, so we tend to know about those areas that impinge on our own lives. Other places just do not appear on our own radar screens.

I remember driving from Los Angeles to Dallas many years ago, while still a resident of England. In the United Kingdom we are used to national newspapers. But here in the United States, I found that each small town had its own paper. In many newspapers, statewide news received scant attention, and you had to scour the paper for news from Washington. The rest of the world did not seem to exist!

Then there was the occasion during the Gulf War when I asked an adult Sunday school class for the name of countries surrounding the Persian Gulf. After hearing Spain and Italy, I decided to move swiftly on. And what about the waitress in North Carolina who wanted to know how long it had taken us to drive from England …

Those of us who have the privilege of traveling also have the responsibility of sharing with others the situations we find, see, hear, observe and respond to.

Last May, I visited the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the largest country in Africa. This is in the heart of the African continent, and has recently reverted to the name of Congo having been known for years as Zaire.

The United States has had both clean and dirty hands here for a long time. Congo has been a battlefield in recent years, with the Hutu Interahamwe from Rwanda seeking refuge after the Rwandan genocide. Then military forces from Uganda, Burundi and Rwanda invaded, followed by the rise to power of Laurent Kabila who was murdered in January 2001. His son, Joseph Kabila, subsequently ascended to the presidency.

Estimates hold that over 3 million have died from the fighting in the last three years. Over 2 million are internally displaced. And the U.S. Committee for Refugees estimates that approximately one-sixth of all displaced people in Africa are from Congo.

But it was exciting to be there to see how people were surviving and helping themselves. I met with leaders of six of the seven Baptist groups in membership with the Baptist World Alliance, and all told me of relatively simple and sustainable development projects they were promoting: of land being cleared for basic farming, and of chicken, ducks, rabbits or fish being bred in local villages. Baptist World Aid is supporting a number of these small viable initiatives.

It was exhilarating to be a part of vibrant and enthusiastic worship services, and to be present at the dedication of a new baby, a sign of the new birth and potential in the country. It was an honor to be a part of a ceremony to acknowledge the election of a Congolese Baptist leader as president of African Baptists, and leader of almost 4 million Baptists in Africa in over 20,000 churches.

Congo has the fifth largest number of Baptists in the world after the United States, India, Brazil and Nigeria, and it was rewarding to see the initiative of trained and dedicated leaders working with their people.

Support hunger relief in Congo through Baptist World Aid—www.bwanet.org/bwaid!

Paul Montacute has been director of Baptist World Aid, the relief and development arm of the Baptist World Alliance, since 1990. He has traveled extensively to most parts of the world, and teaches youth Sunday school at Vienna Baptist Church in Virginia.

For more information, visit the CIA Web site at http://www.odci.gov/cia/publications/factbook/index.html

SEE ALSO:
Baptist World Aid Helps Victims of Volcanic Eruption in Congo
Baptist World Aid (BWAid), the relief and development arm of the Baptist World Alliance, made an initial emergency grant of $10,000 to help those who have fled the volcanic eruption of Mt. Nyiragongo.