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January 2013 Issue

Responsively Yours: Seek Peace and Pursue It

Harriett J. Olson meets with Congo's President Joseph Kabila.
Harriett J. Olson met in New York with Congo's President Joseph Kabila and expressed support for peace initiatives in eastern Congo. (9/27/12)

By Harriett Jane Olson

A critical part of our peacemaking work is directing the attention of global policymakers to issues raised by grassroots women around the world.

Women, peace and security have been important issues for United Methodist Women and our predecessors for many years. This year we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Church Center for the United Nations, property United Methodist Women purchased across from the U.N. headquarters in New York City to support the important work of peacemaking.

A critical part of our peacemaking work is directing the attention of global policymakers to issues raised by grass-roots women around the world. This supports the role of women as peace builders, formally recognized in U.N. Resolution 1325’s focus on women’s perspectives, needs and concerns during war, peace negotiations and postconflict reconstruction. Women often have a heightened degree of urgency about resolving conflict, ending violence and building networks that lead to trust and relationships among former enemies — things that make for peace.

In September 2012 I had the opportunity to meet with Bishop Ntambo Nkulu Ntando and members of an ecumenical delegation from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in the United States to call attention to the human rights atrocities underway in eastern Congo in North and South Kivu. Their descriptions and the photos of the violence against women were terrible.

Along with U.N. regional officials, the delegation concluded that “M23,” the rebel movement, is linked to the government of Rwanda. This area has been increasingly unstable since the 1990s when Congo began receiving refugees from the Rwandan genocide — and since valuable minerals were discovered there. The profitability of coltan mining has skyrocketed due to its use in cellphone batteries.The Congo delegation said many of us in the United States “hold a piece of Congo in your hands” every day.

Along with colleagues, including those from General Board of Church and Society and General Board of Global Ministries, I also spoke with Congo’s President Joseph Kabila, who expressed concern for the region and appreciation for United Methodist assistance in amplifying the Congo delegation’s voices. United Methodist Women’s commitment to peace made it possible for me to assure him that amplifying the voices of others is a key part of our mission, particularly at the Church Center.

When reporters from Congo’s national TV station asked what we could do to help, I said a woman from Congo is in our delegation to the 2013 U.N. Commission on the Status of Women, that we work with partners supporting the recovery of Congolese women, and that we press corporations for just practices with respect to “conflict minerals.”

It still doesn’t seem like enough. Please pray with me for all the families embroiled in this conflict, and especially for the women. Please pray for Bishop Ntando and for regional missionary Catherine Akale. Congo is in Ms. Akale’s region, but she was unable to visit this area last year because of the violence. May God make a way toward peace and reconciliation, and may we discern the way to help.

HARRIETT JANE OLSON
General Secretary
United Methodist Women
holson@unitedmethodistwomen.org

Last Updated: 03/16/2014
 
 

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