Building Peace: United Methodist Women and Democratic Republic of Congo
On September 27, in the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City, among the United Methodist leaders who met with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) President Joseph Kabila to show compassion for the people of the central African country, two leaders encouraged the empowerment of women as a pathway to peace.
From United Methodist Women, Harriett Olson, chief executive, and Tatiana Dwyer, global justice executive, expressed concerned about the DRC’s record of atrocities where rape was used as a weapon of a civil war that lasted from 1997-2003. They were also concerned about the ongoing violence in the eastern part of DRC.
According to Dwyer, “It’s intolerable that violence became a tool and tactic of war. Of course United Methodist Women stands with women and children.” One solution, posits Dwyer, is to include women fully in civil society through supporting international dialogue and undergirding United Nations’ (UN) resolutions and nongovernmental organizations’ alliances.
To such an end, United Methodist Women will sponsor a grass-roots Congolese woman during the UN Commission on the Status of Women in New York City from March 4 to 15, 2013. She will share her professional work against violence and share personal stories from the region during this international gathering.
The priorities, says Dwyer, are “to stop the violence and to influence decision makers.” Dwyer emphasizes the need to raise awareness on existing UN resolutions on women, peace and security, namely UN Resolution 1325, which calls for protecting women during wartime, as well as the need to promote decision-making and the full participation of women in society during peacetime and at all times.
United Methodist Women strengthens its relationship with women in the DRC through the advocacy work of Grace Musuka, a recently assigned United Methodist Women Regional Missionary to Central Africa (DRC, Zimbabwe, Cameroon, Tanzania and Malawi). As a way to create international understanding, Musuka suggests women from the United States join an Ubuntu Journey, such as the service and learning trip to Zimbawe in October 2013.
Regional Missionary Catherine Akale, who met with the North Katanga and South Congo United Methodist bishops and church leaders in May 2012, advised the leaders at that time that in addition to United Methodist Women membership interaction, there is a need for networking, scholarships, grant partnerships, missionary programs, leadership training events, resources and advocacy to support Congolese women and children.
The United Methodist Women National Office supports dozens of projects and people in the DRC. Carol Van Gorp, executive for international ministries, notes, “Our work will include support for programs that offer healing to women and families in this country who have been battered and brutalized over the past 20 years. We believe that healing for women will be critical to successful development in the DR Congo.”
Consider taking part in an Ubuntu Journey, an international exchange for service and learning
Mary Beth Coudal is a freelance writer and teacher who lives in New York City.