A letter from Sharon Watkins in preparation for Congo Week October 18-24
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Greetings today in the name of the living Christ – and on behalf of brother and sister Disciples across the United States and Canada. It is an honor to add my voice in breaking the silence about the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Disciples' roots in Congo go back over 100 years. Today the Disciples of Christ Community in Congo is strong and vibrant. It is led by as gifted and skilled a group of leaders as can be found anywhere in the world church. And yet these partners tell us forthrightly that people in Congo are suffering.
The war in the east has brought to a halt all across the country to the needed development of infrastructure that might have followed the end of a cruel dictatorship. The war drains the energy and resources of the national government. But more heart-breaking are the weapons of terror that are used in that war against women and children. It's time for the world community to shine a light on the violence, and to insist that the Congolese government and the United Nations turn their attention to putting an end to it.
The World Council of Churches, through its top governance body, the Central Committee, has urged WCC member churches "to publicly condemn violence against women" in the DRC. It has urged all parties in the conflict to put an end to all acts of sexual violence and called on the government "to end impunity for rape and to evolve effective strategies to combat sexual violence."
Such measures are long overdue. But there is more. We, too, citizens of the United States and Canada, have a role to play.
The war in the eastern DRC is complicated. It is partly a remnant of the very disputes that led to the Rwandan genocide not so long ago. But it is also due to the unimaginably rich store of natural resources in Congo – resources that the 21st century world demands for jet fuel, cell phones and computers. People and companies of many nations have gotten rich taking minerals from Congo without compensating the Congolese. Such greed fuels the war. This centuries old pattern of taking from Congo – from slavery, through the rubber trade, through trade in diamonds and copper to today's trade in cobalt and coltan – has left Congo exhausted and depleted. And yet the church continues to grow, the people continue to work and to hope for a better day. They reach out to us as partners to help break the pattern and break the silence by standing up and speaking out and searching our own consciences.
At General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) this summer I spoke about Henoch, a child of a Congolese Disciples pastor. I said Henoch, a child of God, is also our child. As you break the silence today I hope you will remember the children of eastern Congo who live in terror of the next militia coming through. Remember their mothers and sisters whose lives are devastated by horrors that most of us cannot imagine. I hope you will pray for them and for us, that you will educate yourselves about the role we play in today's interconnected global economy, and that you will continue to speak up and to give, so that Henoch's generation can know peace.
In the name of the one who came that we might know life in abundance,
Sharon E. Watkins - General Minister and President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)