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Women in Goma Cry out for Peace

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15 December 2012

from Amanda Jackson, Micah Challenge

At the first Christmas, angels sang of peace and goodwill - comforting and hopeful promises that fit our celebrations.

But for Mary and Joseph and their new baby, God's promise must have seemed elusive. We know they had to flee immediate danger because of Herod's cruel response to the prophecy of a new king. I wonder whether they had an inkling of God's peace that passes understanding – I hope they did as they sought God's protection and guidance outside Israel.

If Bethlehem was a forgotten backwater of the Roman Empire, Goma in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), is a remote and forgotten place today. But a place rich in minerals like gold and coltan. A place worth fighting over.

On November 20, 2012, M23 rebels seized Goma, reigniting a war that has ravaged the region for 16 years. In the midst of UN inaction and corrupt government troops, the M23, one of many rebel groups vying for power in allegiances that shift and change, was able to move swiftly. 

Neighbouring Rwanda was accused of supporting the M23 for ethnic and economic gain. Outsiders struggled to understand the complexities. 

Since then, the M23 has withdrawn from Goma but hovers with menace. Nations are calling for peace talks, which fitfully began in Uganda this week.  Some countries have halted aid to Rwanda. 

For many thousands of ordinary families, the promise of peace is something they cry out for but which must seem a long way off. (see background on Goma here)

 

The situation in DRC is messy and uncertain. A recent update from Charles Franzen, who works with World Relief on the ground in Goma says, “The peace summit in Kampala (Uganda) finally started yesterday and there was a great deal of posturing. President Kabila (of DRC) has still not indicated whether he will participate…… If he does not come, it is hard to imagine what can be achieved. 

“The M23 is very unhappy about this (and) have decided to creep a couple of miles closer to the middle of Goma.  The entire force of their infantry, 1,500 men or so, are now encamped at the entrance of the airport which is in Goma municipality itself.  We still have many reports of crimes committed under cover of darkness and of foraging missions by the M23 soldiers in order to gain food, money and valuables.  (The UN) is continuing efforts at the new IDP Camp to prepare enough room and facilities for tens of thousands of displaced people. 

“So, for the present, we continue watching and waiting and praying.  It is not a comfortable feeling to have a former conquering army sitting on one’s doorstep just minutes from the centre of the city while regional leaders debate our fate in the capital of a neighbouring country.  The feeling of powerlessness is now very palpable."

Meanwhile, a group calling themselves Maman Shujaa (Hero Women) has issued a powerful call for “real” peace. They have a vision for their nation that goes beyond the brutal violence. Their leader Neema Namadamu has declared, “I have a vision for my country—a new and peaceful Congo—that compels me, and its destiny is driving me…. But the mothers live in poverty, in fear of being raped, daily losing their sons and husbands to endless wars. We are brutalized in unconscionable ways by monsters wearing military uniforms. We are tired of this. We have had enough. We will not be quiet." (More information about Change.org petitions)

 

Mary was a young woman entrusted with a future-changing call on her life and in the times of doubt, I have to think that her vision must have sustained her. 

Let’s pray for the women of DRC, that a vision for real peace will sustain them and that the Prince of Peace will bring hope to millions of Christians caught in brutality this Christmas. 

ACTION

 

We can pray for the women of DRC, and their husbands and children caught in terrible conflict. 

We can sign a petition for peace - Sign the Change.org petition here

We can remember that DRC is closer than we think. Every time we use our mobile or laptop, a little bit of coltan from DRC helps it to operate quickly. Find out more about the link between coltan, Congo and conflict.