|Congolese farm workers in the Lake Mweru region display their crops. |
A Bishop Solidifies the Peace
United Methodists in the Democratic Republic of Congo believe food security is a key to peace. With Bishop Ntambo Nkulu in the lead, they are emphasizing an agriculture ministry in the southeastern part of their country.
A brutal civil war began in 1996, during Bishop Ntambo’s first term. Armed groups destroyed crops and burned whole villages to the ground. The war left children without parents and people without limbs.
During that same period, cholera killed thousands. When war destroys clean water and food supplies, cholera bacteria can flourish, killing with dehydration and shock.
In the midst of the horrors of war and disease, the bishop brought hope to the Katanga region. Partnering with the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), he introduced new agricultural products. Last September, after nearly eight years of war, he helped to broker a peace settlement for Katanga at a conference attended by 250 warriors who committed not to fight.
“The church brought the peace,” said Ntambo, who moderated the conference, funded by United Methodist donations, including one from UMCOR.
Now Ntambo leads planning for a future where the church can assist with clean water, housing, nutritious food, education and decent livelihoods to strengthen Katanga and Kamina, in the south Congo.
During the war years, North Katanga Conference, in partnership with UMCOR, introduced an important new source of sustainable agriculture: Chinese cabbage. The cabbages provide nutrition and income for families who sell them at regional markets.
The cabbage experiment led to growing other sustainable crops like the moringa tree, which provides both food and medicine.
“To buy aspirin one had to walk 50 miles,” explained the bishop. “On an income of less than $100 a year, such a medicine was difficult to obtain. Now every family in Kamina has planted moringa trees and can make a pain reliever similar to aspirin from their foliage.”
Small eggplants, chickens and cattle — all results of UMCOR’s sustainable agriculture program — provide additional food security.
These activities are ways the church is helping to sustain the peace in the Katanga area. The peace treaty enabled people to move from using energy for fighting to using it to rebuild a country. The bishop dreams of a university for Kamina and has already dedicated an interfaith chapel.
“In Kamina, there are different tribes, different religions and different cultures,” he said. “Through the programs of the United Methodist Church and UMCOR in Kamina, the city is united. United Methodists were the only ones trusted to bring all together.”
How to participate in this program
• UMCOR Advance #982188, Sustainable Agriculture and Development
• UMCOR Advance #982920, World Hunger/Poverty
• Make your check payable to your local church. Write the Advance project number on the check and give to your church treasurer.
• Make your check payable to “UMCOR.” Write the Advance project number in the memo line and send to UMCOR, 475 Riverside Dr., Room 330, New York, NY 100115.
• Call (800) 554-8583 to give by credit card.
One Great Hour of Sharing is March 6
Gifts to this Special Sunday offering underwrite overhead costs at UMCOR. UMCOR receives no apportioned funds, so this allows 100 percent of every dollar you donate to a specific UMCOR project to be spent on that project.
Offering gifts over and above those used to cover administrative costs are channeled where they're most needed. Donations to the One Great hour of Sharing offering also assist UMCOR programs that have not been fully funded through designated Advance gifts.
March 6 is the "official" offering date for One Great Hour of Sharing, however, the offering can be received on any Sunday of a local church's choosing.
For more on the aid One Great Hour of Sharing gifts are providing for tsunami relief, click here.
--Linda Beher is the communications director for the United Methodist Committee on Relief.