Christian ministry in the Democratic Republic of Congo has been dealt another blow with missionaries forced to evacuate for the third time this decade in the wake of war and civil strife.
Although some missionaries have remained in the former Zaire, especially in areas largely unaffected by the six-month rebellion, most expatriates have pulled out to await more peaceful times. Renewed banditry and lawlessness by armed groups have prompted mission groups to step back and examine new ways to carry out ministry in the midst of a widening regional crisis.
Congo's ethnic war is potentially explosive for Africa's central Great Lakes region (CT, Feb. 3, 1997, p. 82). Hostilities broke out in August after President Laurent Kabila, a former rebel leader who unseated the late dictator Mobutu Sese Seko in May 1997, ordered Rwandan troops and former allies to leave the country (CT, July 14, 1997, p. 66).
Troops from Zimbabwe, Angola, and Namibia rallied quickly to Kabila's aid to halt an advance on the capital, Kinshasa, and force ethnic Tutsi rebels to consolidate their hold in the eastern part of the country. In November, Amnesty International noted that Rwanda, Uganda, and Burundi were supporting the rebel Congolese Rally for Democracy. The human rights watchdog organization blamed government soldiers, rebels, and ethnic groups for the massacre, abduction, torture, and rape of thousands of civilians since August. Congolese Christians and missionaries have not been spared.
MISSIONARIES, CIVILIANS FLEE: Most Protestant missionaries have taken up temporary residence in neighboring countries, South Africa, or in their home countries, while local Christians in many areas have gone into hiding in forests. Memories of the 1996-97 war are still ...1
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