Calls for Prayers, Peace, and Humanitarian Aid in
"This is a wake up cry we express at this moment...war atrocities are now hitting home in this part of our Episcopal area," wrote Bishop Gabriel Unda Yemba, who leads the East Congo Episcopal Area of The United Methodist Church.
After months of rising tensions and violence, rebel forces in eastern Congo have taken control of the major city of Goma and the town of Sake. An alert from ACT Alliance indicates that a humanitarian crisis is looming due to renewed fighting. "The conflict puts to risk the population of Goma town (about 700,000 people) and the people in the surrounding areas who are now waiting to relocate to safer areas and to neighbouring countries," they report.
According to Bishop Unda, "the region of Goma and the surrounding villages are not a place to live because of all the horrors that take place."
Thomas Kemper, who leads the General Board of Global Ministries, has reached out to Bishop Unda to offer direct support and prayers. At a time when much of the world's eyes are on Gaza, and many people in the US are preparing for Thanksgiving, Kemper stated that, "as we pray for peace in the world, we remember our brothers and sisters in eastern Congo. The violence is creating a crisis that is especially increasing the suffering of women and children. We must actively work to end the violence and develop solutions that result in lasting peace."
The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is preparing to respond to the humanitarian needs in the region, particularly to those who are most vulnerable. Melissa Crutchfield, who leads the international response efforts for the organization, said, "We have been in touch directly with the church as well as several partners who have offices and operations in the country. We plan to respond as the needs and channels for distribution become clear."
The United Methodist Church in Eastern Congo
Mande Muyombo, originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in Katanga, is the Global Ministries program officer for the region. According to him, "Goma, which is the major city of the North-Kivu province, is also a major district of the United Methodist Church." Describing the district around Goma, he said, "The Goma District itself is part the Kivu Annual Conference which has three other districts, 48 churches, and an estimated membership of 8,445."
Albert Otshudi Longe is a young adult mission intern from Kinshasa, DRC, who is currently serving in the Philippines. Expressing the importance of the church's role, he said, "The episcopal area lies in an area that has been unstable for a long period of time and most of these affected people look up to the church as a place of refuge and assistance."
Explaining how United Methodists are directly impacted by the violence, Muyombo said, "If the violence continues the rest of the Episcopal area, which has nearly 349,276 United Methodists, will be affected as well. Many people, especially women and children, are currently on the run without food, shelter, and water."
In an email, Longe wrote that while the need for church assistance is increasing, it is becoming a challenge to reach the people in need. "With an increasing number of people displaced from their residences and others moving out of the country, and the overtake of the city by the rebel forces, it is becoming difficult for the church to minister because of the constant fear that people live with and the small number of people still in the city."
Your gift to Congo (DRC) Emergency Advance #198400 will provide emergency relief and humanitarian assistance in the region.
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