Young Congolese train as peace-builders through ecumenical education
A World Council of Churches (WCC) ecumenical training programme recently held in Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), prepared 30 young Congolese to be peace-builders amidst the reality of conflict and the backdrop of upcoming elections in the country.
The training session organized by the WCC Ecumenical Theological Education programme, 4 to 6 August, engaged its participants in learning about topics related to building peaceful communities, including inter-generational dialogue, gender roles and cultural patterns that influence peaceful conflict resolution.
Young participants in the programme, representing a wide range of local churches, reflected on the theme “Youth and the Public Witness of the Church in Congo”. It was the first time such an ecumenical gathering has been held for young people with significant participation from the WCC member churches in the DRC.
The training programme, supported by the WCC member churches and youth organizations in the DRC, featured voices from local presenters, such as Fr Jean Kazadi, regional representative of the WCC’s Ecumenical HIV and AIDS Initiatives and Advocacy, Délion Kimbulungu of the national independent electoral commission (CENI) and representatives of the electoral mediation commission (CIME), who underlined the important role of youth as mediators in conflicts during the electoral period.
In the training, Noella Kyamutsongeri of the Baptist Community in Goma spoke about the violent clashes in her home region, which shattered formerly close relationships across the border.
She said, “I now am aware that enmity between Congolese and Rwandese was caused by false stereotypes and accusations. We needed to show compassion. Perhaps by crying together we would discover our common humanity and overcome the hostility which sets us apart.”
Participants in the training shared their experiences as voters and how by developing alternative models of public engagement they can challenge gaps in the electoral process.
Matou Matunga of the Presbyterian community in Kinshasa said, “We have learnt how to become ambassadors of reconciliation in our country and how the idea of ecumenism can strengthen us to take a stand for justice and peace in the public sphere.”
Melanie Musawu from the Independent Church Eglise Lumière in Kinshasa said: “We as young people of the DRC must learn to love our own country and give it the best of ourselves.”
The participants in training committed themselves to share their learnings in their home provinces, and to invite other young church members to join the pilgrimage of justice and peace.