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Building Peace in the Heart of Darkness
Image: Courtesy of World Relief

Violence erupted again this week in the fractured Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) when at least 20 people were killed in clashes between the government and the M23 rebel militia, breaking a truce that had held since last November.

The fighting paused Thursday (May 23) for the arrival of United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in the city of Goma in eastern Congo, according to the BBC. Meanwhile, the United Nations' new 3,000-person intervention brigade has also begun to arrive in Goma. The force will be allowed to offensively target and "neutralize" violent groups in the region, an unprecedented step for the UN.

Amid the clamor and negotiations, it would be easy to overlook one new movement, working to heal eastern Congo: Small groups of Congolese church leaders, including influential local women, are volunteering to solve and prevent conflicts one at a time, without fanfare.

It's a simple idea. But in a nation where political solutions are often given more attention than community solutions, World Relief, the humanitarian arm of the National Association of Evangelicals, believes these committees, which require the inclusion of female leaders, could be a key to peace.

For the last several years, World Relief has been forming "village peace committees" in eastern Congo. World Relief has had an office in the city of Goma since 2001, and they began the committees as a pilot program intended to foster peace at the grassroots level.

"We've wrapped everything together under the theme of peace," said World Relief President Stephen Bauman. "We're still doing microfinance, we're still doing food security, we're still doing health, but we now have ...

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Building Peace in the Heart of Darkness
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May 2013

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