When CT last traveled to the Democratic Republic of Congo, ministers prayed passionately and tearfully for an end to war. They prayed for successful elections later in the year. They asked for a miracle.
Peaceful elections on October 29 led the BBC to acknowledge, "That miracle appears to have taken place." Jean-Pierre Bemba conceded defeat to incumbent president Joseph Kabila and announced on December 13 that he would settle for a spot in the country's senate. Many expected the former rebel leader to reject the results and resume fighting.
"Church leaders are unanimous in thanking God," said Gwendolyn Lusi, who operates a health service ministry in Goma. "There were many attempts to destabilize the process. The whole thing could have turned into a catastrophe."
Events preceding Congo's first free elections in 46 years kept the nation on edge. Organizing elections in the conflict-prone country of 62 million with dismal infrastructure proved to be a logistical nightmare. Vindictive warlords with private armies and regional and ethnic strongholds threatened to derail the first round of elections on July 29. Powerful Catholic bishops threatened a boycott. But successful voting eliminated all but Kabila and Bemba.
The October runoff was even more intense. Isaac Mwanaume, pastor of one of the largest churches in northeast Congo, organized prayer conferences. World Vision's Goma office launched more peace and reconciliation programs. Mennonite churches arranged for outside observers and trained thousands as mediators.
"The church is everywhere," the BBC reported. "Taxi drivers play gospel music."
Nevertheless, there is still cause for concern. Armed forces continue to hold large chunks of the country. The leader of a small rebel army, bitter about the elections, attacked villages close to Goma in December. U.N. forces responded, but soon afterward the rebels seized new territories.
"Peace and security in the Democratic Republic of Congo is fundamental to the stability of the entire region," said Asha-Rose Migiro, neighboring Tanzania's foreign affairs minister.
Nevertheless, the elections have stirred church leaders' optimism for the future.
"If the Congolese peoplehardworking, resourceful, resilientare left in peace," Lusi said, "they will put their country back together and build it up into something remarkable in Africa."
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