News / Africa

Building Peace at the Grassroots Level

Uganda DRC RefugeesUganda DRC Refugees
x
Uganda DRC Refugees
Uganda DRC Refugees

Multimedia

Audio
TEXT SIZE - +
Joe DeCapua
A Christian-based aid organization says if peacebuilding is to succeed in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, it must begin at the grassroots level.

Millions of people have died in the Eastern DRC from near constant war since the mid-90s. More than one and a half million people are internally displaced. Nearly a half million Congolese are refugees in neighboring countries. And many thousands of people have been brutally raped – women, men and children.



Much of the conflict and violence has occurred in North and South Kivu Provinces. The aid group World Relief says local disputes over land and power are at the heart of the turmoil.

Don Golden, World Relief’s senior vice president of Church Engagement, recently returned from the region.

“Any discussion about peacebuilding in Eastern Congo is mostly about peace between the rebel groups or peace between the regional governments. So it’s all this macro peace. But communities fall apart and war is most keenly felt at the local level – at the very much grassroots level,” he said.

He said that when local groups and communities live together peacefully they are less vulnerable.

“Helping local communities overcome their disputes will keep them from being the toys of the many powers in the region.”

Those powers include the DRC government, as well as many militias and armed groups, some reportedly backed by neighboring countries. Congo’s rich mineral wealth is the trigger for much of the conflict. 

World Relief, he said, works with local houses of worship in providing assistance, adding they have an “ethic of service.”

“If they tap into that Christ-likeness, they serve the poor and serve the vulnerable in their communities. And interestingly in eastern Congo all of the churches are typically tribally-based. So it’s not just a Baptist church it’s a Baptist church from one particular tribe. So when you get churches to come together, to do work together, to do anything together, you’re also getting different tribes together,” said Golden.

Relying on people of all faiths, not just Christianity, World Relief initiated – what are called – Village Peace Committees. There are currently 57 such committees operating in the Kivus. They include some of the most respected members of Congolese towns and villages.

He said, “They are taught the process of conflict resolution – the ability to come together and to find the wisdom of the community. If that region were doing this en masse, instead of having 57 Village Peace Committees, if we had a thousand of them in the region, the hold of those militias to be able to just manipulate one against the other would begin to diminish; and I think the top-down peacebuilding of the U.N. would be more effective.”

During his visit, Golden witnessed how the committees resolved more than 20 disputes. He gave some examples.

“This is the story about two sisters. And one sister moves off to Goma and she leaves $200 behind for her other sister. She returns six months later and she finds that her sister doesn’t recall having received the $200. That’s a dispute. Typically, there would be no recourse for the rule of law and that just becomes part of the animosity of that community. One and on these stories go. A man caught with a neighbor’s wife. The ruin of reputation, etcetera,” he said.

World Relief is calling on both the U.N. and the many NGOs operating in the eastern DRC to also engage in grassroots peacebuilding efforts.

You May Like

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

John the XXIII and John Paul II will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square on April 27 More

Thailand Reacts to Plots Targeting Israelis

Authorities hope arrest of two Lebanese suspects will disrupt plot to attack young Israeli tourists More

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

'Once Upon a Forest' takes viewers deep into heart of tropical rainforest More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Churchi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 22, 2014 4:14 PM
On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Robotic Mission Kicks Up Lunar Dust

A robotic mission to the moon was deliberately crashed onto the lunar surface late last week, but not before scientists had collected data gathered by the spacecraft which was designed to self-destruct. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports on the preliminary findings of the craft, called LADEE - an acronym for Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer.
Video

Video Boko Haram Claims Responsibility for Bombing in Nigerian Capital

The Nigerian militant group known as Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for a bombing in the capital on April 14th that killed 75 people. In the video message, Abubakar Shekau, the man who says he ordered the bombing, says nothing about the mass abduction of more than 100 teenage girls, most of whom are still missing. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Abuja.
Video

Video Ukraine Developments Hang Over Obama Trip to Asia

President Barack Obama's trip to Asia this week comes as concerns over Beijing's territorial ambitions are growing in the region. Those concerns have been compounded by Russia's recent actions in Ukraine and the possibility that Chinese strategists might be looking to Crimea as a model for its territorial disputes with its neighbors. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid