By Tim Shenk
Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) is accepting financial contributions to help provide relief to people affected by violence in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Armed conflict escalated rapidly in late October as a rebel group attacked the Congolese Army and advanced toward Goma, a major city in eastern Congo. About 800,000 people had already been displaced by longstanding conflicts in the region, and an additional 250,000 people were displaced in recent weeks, according to MCC staff members.
"The whole situation has now deteriorated drastically," said Willie Reimer, MCC's director of food, disaster and material resources programs. Reimer visited eastern Congo in July as part of an MCC assessment team.
The fighting has renewed fears that conflict in eastern Congo could spiral into an international war involving Congo's neighbors, as it did in 1998. That conflict, known as the Second Congo War, caused more than 5 million deaths through violence, starvation and disease, according to the International Rescue Committee.
MCC is helping to provide food and basic supplies to displaced people through the Church of Christ in Congo, a national council of churches, which is known by its French acronym ECC.
On Oct. 27, ECC provided food and supplies, such as soap, mosquito nets and cooking pots, to about 150 families in the Shasha displacement camp in Congo's North Kivu province, according to Suzanne Lind, MCC's Congo representative. MCC funded the project.
ECC is also providing aid to 50 widows in Goma and 200 women in the Mwenga displacement camp with funding from MCC.
MCC is planning further responses to the humanitarian crisis in eastern Congo, such as food distributions and agricultural assistance, according to Reimer.
The Democratic Republic of Congo has one of the largest Mennonite populations in the world, with about 216,000 members in three denominations. Congolese Mennonite denominations are members of ECC.
Most Congolese Mennonites live in the western region of the country and only one Mennonite congregation exists in eastern Congo, according to Lind.
Financial contributions for MCC's relief work in Congo should be designated "Congo emergency assistance." They may be made online at mcc.org/donate or through any MCC office.
Tim Shenk is a writer for Mennonite Central Committee.