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Keeping Hope Alive in the Congo


▲ Ngoy Wa Ngoy Euphrasi participates in a youth training program in Kamina funded by United Methodist Women. The program includes agricultural and academic training. Photo by Paul Jeffrey.

By Paul Jeffrey*

From Response, September 2009

The Democratic Republic of the Congo could be the archetype for what Africans call the “resource curse” — the malady where impoverished people fare worst in countries with abundant natural resources. Yet United Methodist Women is helping impoverished families, women, children and youth in the Congo keep hope alive.

With incredible wealth both above and below the ground, the Congo has a history of its resources benefiting everyone but the Congolese people. For decades the nation was the personal fiefdom of Belgium’s King Leopold. Later it became a Belgian colony. The Congolese won their independence in 1960, but the country’s first democratically elected prime minister, Patrice Lumumba, was assassinated a year later by the Belgians with help from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. During the Cold War, the nation — called Zaire from 1971-1997 — was ruled by Mobutu Sese Seko, a dictator, kleptocrat and proxy for the United States. He deposited billions of dollars from the country’s wealth into personal bank accounts in Switzerland before his overthrow in 1997. Congo’s current democratically elected government faces enormous obstacles to overcome those decades of underdevelopment.

Today, the Congo is still plagued by wars fueled by the nation’s mineral wealth. Several militias, including some linked to ethnic tension in neighboring Rwanda, support themselves by mining and peddling strategic minerals, some of which are used in cellular phones and laptops. Church groups in North America and Europe are at the front of organizing campaigns to stop the repression fueled by “conflict minerals,” much like the campaigns in recent decades against “blood diamonds.”

The United Methodist Church in the Congo maintains a variety of ministries with impoverished people who have been displaced by the fighting. United Methodist Women’s Mission Giving supports several of these efforts. Together with our Congolese sisters and brothers, United Methodist Women is helping Congolese families fight hunger and build the foundations for a better future.

*The Rev. Paul Jeffrey is a United Methodist missionary and senior correspondent for Response. Photos by Paul Jeffrey.


 A Photographic Story by Paul Jeffrey

▲Women care for children as they work in a church-sponsored agricultural program in Lunge.









▲A young girl tends a field in Lunge.









▲A woman works in a market in Kamina.


















▲Parents mourn the death of their 8-month-old daughter to malaria in Mwitobwe.
















▲Women work in a market in Kamina.









▲Women learn income-generating tailoring skills in a Mission Giving-supported program in Mwitobwe.









▲Children — many orphaned by HIV/AIDS — eat at a Mission Giving-supported feeding center in Kamina.









▲Women show their certificates after graduating from an UMCOR-sponsored agricultural skills training program.
































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