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MCC partners in Congo injured in March 20 attack

Dismas Kyanza and Suzanne Lind
March 26, 2010

AKRON, Pa. – Staff members of a Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) partner organization in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo were injured when their vehicle was ambushed by armed men March 20.
The group of six men and women was returning to the city of Bukavu in South Kivu province after visiting a site designated for a humanitarian aid project in cooperation with MCC. They work with the Ministry for Refugees and Emergencies (MERU), a department of the Church of Christ in Congo, which is known by its French acronym ECC. ECC is a national council of churches that includes Congolese Mennonites.
The men and women were beaten, slashed with knives and robbed before being released. The two women in the group were hospitalized with knife cuts and serious bruises.
Eastern Congo has been caught in the grip of fighting and destruction for the past decade. The conflict has many causes, including ethnic tensions related to the 1994 genocide in neighboring Rwanda.
But most of the fighting is over the unregulated mining industry. Congo has vast resources of gold, tin, diamonds and coltan – a metal used in laptop computers and cell phones. Individuals and corporations all over the world are willing to buy minerals mined in Congo, even though the good prices are the result of illegal and abusive practices.
Millions of civilians are caught between the various armed groups battling for control. Unpaid soldiers often turn to violent banditry, abuse and coercion to find food and to intimidate the local population.
MCC and ECC collaborate in a program called Menno-Paix (Menno-Peace) which encourages projects that combine humanitarian aid, peace-building and advocacy efforts.
In the past two years, MCC provided about $345,000 in food and other aid to camps for internally displaced people in South Kivu and North Kivu provinces and to displaced people living with already-impoverished families in Bukavu.
At the same time, advocacy efforts included supporting an ECC program that sought peaceful ways for Rwandan Hutu rebels who had been living for years in the forests of South Kivu to return home safely.
This year, MCC and ECC work in the two provinces will focus on providing seeds and tools to people who are trying to return to their homes and resume farming. Most have spent months or years living in remote camps or with other families in the main towns.
Mennonite youth from both eastern and western Congo will be part of the preparation and distribution of this aid, getting acquainted with each other and the issues that cause the massive displacements. The Peace and Reconciliation Council in Bukavu, which has partnered with MCC for several years, will provide training on advocating for change in emergency or disaster situations.
Congo has one of the largest Mennonite populations in the world, with about 230,000 members in three denominations. Most Congolese Mennonites live in the western part of the country. There is one Mennonite congregation in eastern Congo.