With the support of United Methodist Discipleship Ministries and local ecumenical groups, The United Methodist Church in the Democratic Republic of Congo is teaching young people how to settle conflicts peacefully and find alternatives to violence.
Conflict between local communities is a daily reality in the DRC. Rebellions have created hatred and suspicion between the Babemba, Babuyu and Banyamulenge communities, said Epanga Mayaliwa, youth president of Mwambango United Methodist Church in the district of Fizi. Clashes between herders and farmers in search of seasonal grazing also have resulted in loss of lives and a mass exodus of people to neighboring Tanzania, Burundi and Zambia.
The United Methodist Church, through Youth for Christ, has established permanent contacts with the locals in these areas of conflict. Louis Wanya, who chairs the Youth Kivu Conference, said that the primary motivation of the training is to help young people seek ways to contribute and find peaceful solutions to intra- and inter-community conflicts and challenge them to support a culture of nonviolence.
The partnership has resulted in several initiatives, including:
- Training and educating young adults from different religious denominations (Islam, Baptists, Adventists) on Christian unity, avoiding tribalism and living in peace with others.
- Setting up local peace committees in different villages with high ethnic and multicultural tribal density.
- Sensitizing communities, especially young people, about their role in social cohesion.
- Training youth through cultural and sports activities, such as folk dance, theater, skits and football tournaments.
- Holding days of reflection and conference debates.
According to Damascus Lushima, coordinator of youth in Kivu, the peace awareness will continue in 2018 as the country prepares for elections, noting that many politicians use youth to incite violence.
He said the church should continue to play a major role in teaching all citizens to cultivate the spirit of peace.
Kituka Lolonga is a communicator for the Kivu conference.
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