His smile was amazingly bright as this “20-something” security guard handed me his AK-47 to handle and examine. It was a well used gun, nothing new about it, dings and scratches each with their own story that I was not sure I wanted to hear about. As I held the gun I imagined the many people who at one time may have been on the other side of the weapon. My mind raced through scenes of the movie “Blood Diamond” and I could picture how intoxicating one could feel as the power of the weapon was combined with greed, hate and evil. As I slung the AK-47 over my shoulder I was reminded of the young man who recounted to me his story, the story of a small boy who was taken by force from his village and made into a killer as part of a militia.
Mani was just like any other eight year old boy playing in the fields when an armed group of men entered the village. The militia went from house to house rounding up as many of the men as possible bringing them into the center of the small village. Women fled screaming into the nearby fields trying to hide. Some of the soldiers who chased them did unmentionable and despicable things to those they caught.
The militia leader came and put a pistol to the head of one the village men…
This is one of the many stories of what is called the worst humanitarian disaster ever in human history. For more than a hundred years, starting with King Leopold II who owned this country as his personal possession, this nation has been ransacked and raped of it natural resources and people. Finally in 1908 the world spoke with one voice and said no more… but the disaster just continued as Leopold handed control over to his country, Belgium. With the fear of a communist takeover in the 1960s the United States installed a “friend”, Mabutu Sese Seko, a brutal dictator who perpetuated the disaster and lived like a leach off his own nation. Recent wars and fighting have resulted in more than 6 million people murdered (some place the dead near 20 million), hundreds of thousands of women raped, families destroyed and a nation left in complete ruins. Even today 25,000 a month die from disease and isolated trouble.
With a new democratically elected government lead by, President Joseph Kabila, the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo have some hope. The largest United Nation peacekeeping force in the world occupies this nation allowing the government to begin to bring some stability. There remain some areas where fighting still breaks out but the people are hopeful that peace will one day come and a new nation will emerge.
I am working with an international partner, Congo Initiative, as they are building a bi-lingual Christian University with educational tracks in business, engineering sciences, journalism/communication, family health, and theology. I recruit Master’s level teachers to be instructors for two weeks to two years. I am also connecting churches and businesses into a collaborative partnership to help with everything from training to construction. Today we are starting our third year with approximately 260 students. When I visit, it is not unusual that I meet a parliament representative or a government official touring the facility encouraging the faculty to be strong and faithful as they grow new leaders with a different mindset; new leaders who will not perpetuate injustice and corruption as they enter the market place, political arena, and church leadership. While visiting one student residence there was an inscription scrawled on the wall in French. It said, “We had no future… We did succeed… It was no accident”. Having seen the future through the eyes of these students and knowing the past I weep every time I have to leave. What a difference between the past and this new future.
“The militia leader ordered the man to his knees as he cocked the gun. Mani winced as the he heard the shot. There was no more resistance, everyone join the militia as they marched off into the bush.”
January 7th I take a church to interact with Congo Initiative leadership to determine if a partnership can emerge. Pray for this work and partnership. The hope of a nation rests in the hands of a new generation and those God brings to partner with Congo initiative.
This is your investment. This is your joy.