This week, please intercede with us for Jean Musavuli from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The most populous country in Francophone Africa, the DR Congo is home to nearly 92 million people from 250 ethnic groups. Approximately 94% of Congolese are Christians: 30% Catholic, 27% Protestant, and 37% other Christian (mostly Evangelical). Sixteen years after the Second Congo War (1998-2003), armed conflict among rebel groups continues in the northeast. Ongoing violence has exacerbated food insecurity, driven hundreds of thousands from their homes, and intensified the Ebola epidemic, which has killed over 2,000 people since August 2018.
Jean is pursuing a PhD in Biblical Studies at the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies (UK). His research focuses on how the Church in his context can learn from Nehemiah’s message and example of Christian leadership. Jean has served for several years at the Congo Initiative’s Center for Church Renewal and Global Mission, and has taught Bible and Theology at Christian Bilingual University of Congo. Jean and his wife Linda have three children: Paul (8), Nathan (4), and Joshua (2).
Jean shares the following message:
The Democratic Republic of the Congo, which is the second biggest (by area) in Africa and potentially a very rich country, has gone through many troubles since its independence from Belgian colonial powers on 30 June 1960. Analysts have shown that the number one cause of the country’s troubles is its natural resources, which attract the attention of nations vying for a share in the wealth, thus keeping the Congolese people in extreme poverty and ongoing conflict.
However, we cannot always blame other nations. In fact, the DR Congo has had serious leadership issues. The independence hero, Lumumba, was seriously beaten and painfully killed by superpowers through Mobutu. Then came 32 years of Mobutu’s dictatorial regime, during which the country’s name was changed to Zaire.
In 1998, Laurent Kabila was able to chase out Mobutu and restore the country’s name to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Laurent tried to establish a democratic regime by working on democratic electoral law. The Congolese people became hopeful for a new and bright future. Laurent Kabila closed the borders against illegal mineral exportation, soldiers who had been unpaid for many years got their monthly salaries, teachers got salaries, one Congolese Franc equaled one USD, thieves were seriously punished, etc. However, before he could complete preparations for democratic elections, he was assassinated in January 2001, and his son Joseph Kabila (then 29 years old) was named president.
This was the beginning of the 17-year regime of Joseph Kabila. Instead of pursuing Laurent’s vision, Joseph went in the opposite direction and led the country into a situation worse than in Mobutu’s time. After a five-year transitional period, Joseph was elected as president. In 2011, Joseph was again elected as president, though many believed he was not the actual winner. Since then, there have been many attempts to change the constitution in order to allow him to go for a third round, but the people resisted successfully. So, instead of having elections in 2016, elections were delayed until 2018, under the claim that there were no funds to organize elections. After many civil demonstrations, elections were finally organized on 30 December 2018. Felix Tshisekedi was proclaimed the winner, though there is evidence that Martin Fayulu may have actually won. More resources on the DR Congo’s history are available here.
In Eastern Congo, particularly in the province of North Kivu, there has been a lot of unrest. First, so-called ADF-NALU rebels have been attacking and killing thousands of civilians since 2014. The city and territory of Beni have seriously suffered and continue to suffer from these massacres. It happens to be in this city of Beni (about 350,000 people) that I live and serve. Last month, there were several protests over recent killings. Unfortunately, some civilians were shot dead by the police as they were demonstrating. This is the government’s way of discouraging people from demonstrating, even peacefully. What the population does not understand is how these rebels continue to kill civilians when we have not only a strong army, but also the UN present! In fact, many killings happen not far from a UN military base. This is fully beyond the people’s understanding.
The second issue is the Ebola disease. Unfortunately, the epicenter of the disease happens to be in the same place: Beni city and territory. This epidemic began in early August 2018 and has now continued for a full year. The main reason for its continuation has been the population’s resistance in cooperating with the Ebola Response Team. This resistance has two major causes. First, due to the ongoing and prevailing situation of insecurity, and the killings of many people in the sight of the country’s leaders, the population has not easily trusted the government’s efforts in responding to Ebola.
Second, four medicines have been tested on people during this outbreak. After many deaths, only two were finally approved as efficient. People had already suspected that, in many cases, the medicines being used were contributing to the deaths. This led many to suspect that both the Ebola virus and its treatment were adding to the massacres carried out by the rebels. Thus, the population became resistant to the point of stoning some Ebola Response Teams, even causing the deaths of some team members. Although there has been good progress in the people’s reception of the Response Team, it is not yet full support.
The Church in the DR Congo and the Congo Initiative
In this context, the Church in the Congo has both weaknesses and strengths. Its weakness can be seen in the fact that most of the nation’s leaders, who are judged as exercising poor leadership, belong to churches, both Catholic and Protestant. In fact, Christians are said to make up the vast majority of the population. In short, it seems that the Church has not correctly played its role as the light of the world. Of course, this is in part due to all the hardship the nation has continuously endured for decades.
The strength of the Church can be seen in those denominations, congregations, and Christian organizations that have stood up for justice, as well as in our prayers for the restoration of our country. These churches have continuously taught the truth, calling believers to take on their roles as light in darkness. Of course, such people have faced persecution in many ways, causing fear in those who might follow their example.
Congo Initiative has also tried its best to play a key role in restoring the nation in various ways. The organization focuses on Education, Renewing Christian Vocation, Holistic Family Development, and Governance and Economic Development. Each of these function as a separate center with various and specific community projects, which are giving hope and holistically transforming many lives.
I currently serve in both the Education and the Renewing Christian Vocation centers. I lecture on Biblical Studies at Congo Initiative’s Christian Bilingual University of Congo (UCBC) and conduct workshops with church leaders on renewing Christian vocation with a holistic and practical view of mission.
This past academic year, the UCBC campus had to temporarily move to another town for security reasons, but God enabled us to hold our graduating class research presentations and graduation ceremony on our main campus!
I am thankful to God for my wife Linda and the three children he has given us: Paul, Nathan, and Joshua.
As a family, we are very thankful to God for protection and provision in this difficult moment. This has not been an easy time for families in Beni. For instance, due to insecurity, my family has had to move from one quarter to another within the same city since 2016. There are even those who have moved three or more times. In addition, Ebola was once viewed as a very distant threat, but it kept coming nearer to the point that some of our church members and extended relatives have died of Ebola. It even happened that someone in our UCBC colleague’s household has died! Due to this, the entire UCBC community had to be vaccinated. As a family, we thank God that my wife and I, as well as our children, were all successfully vaccinated in early July.
When I have to travel for studies, it is always a difficult time for us as a family. I always think about my wife and kids, imagining how they are doing. However, God has always been faithful as our Good Shepherd who ceases not to watch over His people, even as they go through the valley of the shadow of death.
UCBC is working on starting post-graduate courses. However, this requires a number of qualified lecturers and mentors with PhDs. Therefore, the University has embraced its 25/25 vision, which means that by 2025, we should have 25 qualified lecturers with doctorates. However, the fulfillment of this vision requires a lot of funds, which we do not have. That is why we are very thankful for ScholarLeaders International’s support, which is enabling me to pursue this research degree at the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies.
I am still at the very beginning of my research journey and still drafting my proposal. I am aiming to look at the rebuilding of the walls in Nehemiah, and its contribution to the fulfillment of God’s immediate and ultimate plan for His people. Through this research, I want to see how believers’ efforts (even in Congolese society) in trying to better people’s lives now contributes to God’s bigger plan and glory, whether they are aware of it or not.
For the nation, we pray that God would:
- Fill our leaders with His knowledge and fear, and use them to restore justice, security, and economic stability in the nation and particularly in Eastern Congo;
- Enable our leaders to make good decisions, even when under pressure from foreign powers;
- Work both through the Ebola Response Team and the population’s cooperation to bring an end to the disease; and
- Heal and give hope to the many families who have lost their loved ones due to the massacres or Ebola.
For the Church and the Congo Initiative, we pray that God would:
- Continue to strengthen the Church, so that it may shine even more brightly in the darkness;
- Encourage believers to do justice, even in the face of persecution, and that God would give them joy, peace, and satisfaction as they do so;
- Bless and provide for the work of Congo Initiative and all its centers;
- Continue to use our UCBC alumni wherever they are as agents of change; and
- Enable UCBC to resume its new academic year in November on its own campus.
For my family, we pray that God would:
- Continue to protect my family and give them peace when I am away;
- Keep the children from traumatic events, like hearing gun shots, etc.; and
- Restore security and master the Ebola situation, so the children may start their upcoming new school year in September.
For my studies, we pray that God would:
- Bless my journey and studies in the UK this September/October;
- Bless my work as I try to get my proposal ready; and
- Lead me and my mentors in identifying the right supervisors to work with for the rest of my studies.