Great Lakes: Instability continues but partner projects provide hope

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From 15-18 January, the Standing Committee of the Association of Episcopal Conferences of Central Africa (ACEAC) held their annual session in the Amani Spiritual Center in Bukavu, DR Congo.

During this meeting, also attended by Dieudonné Serukabuza, Pax Christi International’s Africa Regional Coordinator, the bishops discussed the major challenges affecting the three ACEAC countries of the Great Lakes sub-region (Burundi, DR Congo and Rwanda).

They discussed mechanisms for the protection of minors and vulnerable people against abuse, including by clergymen, and analyzed the worrying social situation caused by persistent insecurity in certain areas, in particular in Eastern Congo and on the borders of the three countries. In this area, many families live below the poverty line, and the Ebola virus and torrential rains are causing significant material damage including homelessness and deaths.

The bishops appealed to the conscience of politicians to show solidarity with those who are suffering, to keep at heart and in mind their duty to provide security to the populations, and to work for their prosperity of peoples who must be able to fully enjoy their rights as human beings.

Thankfully, many people, local communities and organisations are giving their help, striving for a better future for the people.

Pax Christi International has launched a joint cross border program in the three countries of Great Lakes region, with the aim of educating young people on active nonviolence and peacebuilding, and assisting disadvantaged youth in creating small scale businesses. All these projects are under the umbrella name “Empowering new generations on active nonviolence and entrepreneurship”. (Info here).

Dieudonné Serukabuza made a field visit to some projects, including the small scale businesses.

Pax Christi Bukavu, member of the Pax Christi network in the Great Lakes region, co-manages a project in which 10 young boys and girls have built a little farm with pigs and a shop in which they sell bags of flour.

SPR (Synergie des Femmes pour la Paix et la Réconciliation des Peuples des Grands Lacs d’Afrique), another member of network in Bukavu, is accompanying young people in selling coal.

Africa Reconciled in Goma (DRC) is giving advices and assisting a group of young people who are making and selling bread through their bakery business.

UPDDHE, Jeunes artisans de la Paix, is engaged with a project that involves 20 young people in breeding pigs.

Dieudonné’s last stop was in Goma visiting the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD) and the Diocesan Commission for Justice and Peace (CDJP).

All these experiences are signs of light in a territory severely tested by constant natural and human-made disasters which have contributed to a fragile social situation. It is important to continue to be present bringing relief to these affected populations.