Category Archives: Congo

Kony 2012: Some thoughts on a viral video

Have you seen the video already? As of Monday, March 12, the youtube counter was at 74 million views. Not bad for 6 days. The video, as I am sure you already know, was created by Invisible Children, and organization designed to advocate for the protection of children in central Africa and programs of help (tracking Kony’s militia, educating children, early warning detection, etc.). Their primary purpose is to (a) educate the world about the abuses and terrorism of Joseph Kony, and (b) keep up the political pressure on decision makers so that they do not drop the ball on the efforts to arrest Kony. If you are not aware, President Obama sent 100 military advisors to the region to support national troops in their search for Kony. Kony2012 is meant to maintain political and cultural pressure to keep searching for him (20 power brokers, 12 politicians= 2012).

Of course, with every good intention, comes criticism and controversy. You can read a number of complaints about the efforts. Invisible Children (IC)

  • advocate US military involvement in a foreign country where we do not have significant interests
  • spend only some 37% of donations in Africa on programs
  • imply in the video that Kony is attacking Ugandans when he hasn’t been there for 6 years
  • make no mention of the destruction by Kony in the DRC and the CAR.
  • further the idea that the white man needs to save Africa

Do a little homework and you realize that IC is promoting Kony’s capture (not death), is designed to be an advocate and not primarily a service program in Africa, and knows that Kony isn’t in Uganda anymore. I suppose the complaint that has the most merit is that the video perpetuates the idea that white people have to solve Africa’s problem. It might have been helpful to show what Africans are doing already.

So your thoughts? Does the video spur you on to help? Does the recent take downs of dictators fuel our willingness to remove tyrants from power? Should we solve other country’s problems? Given the DRC’s lack of a strong central government, ought we to act first and apologize later?

I would suggest that the video does its job in a bit of education with a focus on action steps. A video that just gives the gory facts (and pictures) often just traumatizes and paralyzes. It could have played up the footage in such a way as to make it seem like Africans are violent people–or corrupt. The film could have talked about the immense forests of the DRC and that finding Kony will be finding a needle in a haystack. Or, it could have played to all that IC has done in a self-promotional manner. Yet it did none of those things. It made mention of the need, the desire of Africans to bring Kony to justice, and the opportunity average people have to help leaders keep their eye on the ball.

My thoughts? Watch the video. Engage in some good conversation about how Christians can speak up about evils done to nameless/faceless people. Debate the merits of propaganda for a good cause. Discuss practical ways to influence power. Decide if IC is a good place for your funds and if not, find another doing the work you cannot do yourself. Speak up for justice. Review the electronic action kit.

Do something.

PS: Here is a great (bit long) perspective from Drs who have a deep and abiding love for Uganda and Jesus:


Filed under Africa, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC, trauma

Hungering for Justice? A new read for an old verse

During my recent trip to the DRC and Rwanda I practiced French by reading the Bible in French and English. Not sure it helped much but I did discover an interesting difference in Matthew 5:6 between the two translations that made me stop and think.

First the NIV:

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Now the French:

Heureux ceux qui ont faim et soif de la justice, car ils seront rassasiés!

Notice something different? Most English translations use the word righteousness. Those who hunger after righteousness will be filled (or satisfied). Now, when you substitute the word justice–those who hunger and thirst for justice–does it add meaning to you?  It does to me.

Justice? Righteousness? Do you hear differences?¹

When I hear the word righteous, I think of individual holy acts, attitudes, and character. When I hear the word justice, I often think of fairness, judgment, and legal outcomes that make right prior wrongs. In reading this verse in French and in Goma, DRC where so many have no justice and can’t return to their villages due to ongoing conflict, my mind considers that Jesus might be saying that those who hunger and thirst after justice are going to be blessed in a particular way.

Obviously, those who hunger and thirst after righteousness will also long for justice for individuals, communities and states. One cannot be righteous and yet unjust or just and unrighteous. However, it is possible for us to fight against sin in our own lives, practice individual acts of righteousness, and yet forget to pray and work for justice for those who are being oppressed.

Some years ago Carl Ellis, in a class on African American theology, suggested that White evangelical churches often preach and teach about individual righteousness (i.e., what to put off and what to put on) but rarely teach about corporate righteousness unless it is to rail against worldly matters (e.g., abortion, homosexuality, greed, etc.). I do think this is changing as evangelicals are paying attention to matters of justice around the world. Yet, we can be reminded that God cares about those who are unjustly treated. It is not just Abel’s blood that cries out (Gen 4:10) for justice.

Thankfully, there is a just and righteous outcome. The sacrifice of Jesus “speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.” (Heb 12:24). Yet when you read Matthew 5 don’t forget that God is actively blessing those who are oppressed. He will satisfy them by fulfilling their desires. Let us not forget to hunger and thirst after justice for ourselves and for the world.

¹In this post I am not tackling the best translation for the Greek word (δικαιοσύνην) used in this verse. The 92 times it is used in the KJV are all translated righteous/ness. However justice is implied in 2 Peter 1:1 as we have faith due to the righteousness of God.

1 Comment

Filed under Biblical Reflection, Christianity, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Doctrine/Theology, Evangelicals, trauma, Uncategorized

Back in the USA after whirlwind trip to DRC and Rwanda

Glad to have the trip to see the trauma recovery efforts and needs in the DRC and Rwanda. Glad to return home. It has been a whirlwind of experiences and emotions. I know many of you were in prayer for our trip so over the next 2 weeks I plan to post daily logs of our trauma recovery trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Rwanda. I have some pictures and video that I hope to post but am still trying to figure out how to make some edits to the video clips I took each day.

Let me start by making a couple of observations about the things that were most noticeable–both in going to a new culture and in returning home. These are random…

  1. Chaos is the name of the game in the DRC. Nothing works well. Not customs, not roads, not electricity, not UN.
  2. Smooth roads in the DRC are few and far between. In Goma, they are TERRIBLE. Looks like they just carved them out of lava. What a wonderful place to live if you make your living replacing axles and struts.
  3. Electricity is spotty, internet slow…but most in Goma have 2 cell phones each. Why? Because they have two cell providers and at any time, one may be down
  4. The UN soldiers aren’t well liked in the DRC. Seen as either neutral (just observing not helping) or negative (participating in the raping of the Congo). Being a UN soldier may be one of the most mindnumbing job there is. Stand around. Do nothing for most of the time.
  5. Everybody walks everywhere
  6. Rwanda is developing by leaps and bounds. Not sure if all of it is good. On the one hand, massive construction in Kigali. Roads from Goma to the center of the country a delight. On the other hand, there are large sections that used to be slums in Kigali that are now green space/farming/nice properties. Where did those people go?
  7. Stereotyping: Congolese seem more open about their feelings than Rwandans.
  8.  We are so blessed in this country. We can count on our infrastructure.  We do not have to pay bribes. If we work, we probably will get paid.
  9. Despite their poverty, African worship is far more joyful and therapeutic (in a good way) than what we call worship in this country.
  10. I probably wouldn’t invite guests to my house if it were a 2 room board shack with no running water or toilet. Not the case for some in the DRC and Rwanda.
  11. Trauma is everywhere in Africa. Few resources to deal with it there, including the church

Day One: October 10-11; travel to Entebbe, Uganda

6 pm. Lift off on time from Philadelphia International Airport. Diane and I fly overnight to Belgium. It is always a challenge for me to get sleep on a plane so I got a prescription for Ambien to help. Learned that half a pill doesn’t much work for me. The total trip from Philadelphia to Uganda takes 18 hours of flight time. Add in the waits in Philadelphia, Brussels, and Kigali and you have 24 hours of travel, a long and painful trip. Yet, each leg went well and went off as planned. Two minor interesting experiences

  • Recognized a stewardess on the first leg who plied me with a few freebies to make the trip much more pleasant
  • Pretty sure I sat next to French journalist, Jean Hatzfeld, author of Machete Season and the Antelope Strategy on the trip to Kigali. Not sure since his English isn’t that good but he was editing proofs of a new book he said was about him and his role after the genocide. Wished I had determined for sure who he was and told him how I found his books so helpful.

Arrived in Entebbe at 9:45 pm, October 11. After that many hours, you feel rather fuzzy brained. But, we were met by someone from the Ugandan Bible Society who had us wait at the airport with him until Bagudekia Alobeyo, our American Bible Society friend, arrived on his flight some 45 minutes later. Once Bagu (our Congolese pastor/guide and friend) arrived we set off to a nearby hotel, the Imperial Beach Resort Hotel right on Lake Victoria. This turns out to be our best accommodations of the trip. First impressions right out of the airport. The lovely smell of charcoal cooking fires are quite prominent.

Off to sleep in hopes of good rest to be ready for our quick flight into the DRC tomorrow!


Filed under Congo, counseling, trauma, Uncategorized

When some help isn’t better than none

When is some help worse than none? When it creates more problems than might have been there without it. While that is easy to say, determining the line between helpful and harmful is less clear.

If your help saves a life, that seems good. If your help saves lives but creates or supports a system that destroys others, when do you decide to stop helping or to change the help you offer?

This is what Linda Polman raises and a key issue in her The Crisis Caravan: What’s Wrong with Humanitarian Aid? (2010, Metropolitan Books; first published in 2008 in Dutch by the title, De Crisiskaravaan).

Linda tells of a huge problem in the humanitarian aid industry (yes, it is one even if its primary purpose is to provide care for traumatized and displaced peoples). She puts the challenge this way in regard to providing humanitarian aid for those in warzones,

You do what you can for the victims, but soldiers exploit your efforts. They demand money for ever well yo dig and levy sky-high taxes, imposed on the spot, on all the sacks of rice and tents and medicines you arrange to have flown in. They consume a slice of your aid supplies and sell another slice. Among the items they buy with the proceeds are weapons, which they use to drive yet more people into your refugee camps or even to their deaths.

What do you do? Do you conclude that it is no longer possible to cling to the principles of the Red Cross, pack your bags, and leave to help war victims elsewhere? Or do you remain true to your convictions, believing that even if you save only one human life, some relief is better than none? (p. 1-2)

The first 2 chapters detail the problems of the international aid provided to Goma, DRC between July/August 1994 and 1996 when the Rwandan government used their soldiers to force the mass of Hutu refugees and former genocidaires back into Rwanda rather than allow the camps be locations for regrouping of the militias that would try to return to fight the new Rwandan government.

A couple of her observations

1. Not all refugees are the same. Some are truly in need. But a large number of the refugees in Goma brought a treasure trove of materials looted from their own country. Thus, they were less likely pushed there and more likely going there to reconstitute a machine against the RPF in a safe place.

2. The international community came in droves, almost seeming to try to make up for the failures in Rwanda for the past several months. But they didn’t understand that many of these folks were either perpetrators or related to them.

3. Not all of the deaths reported as due to cholera were in fact illness related. There were many that were killed for failing to be loyal enough to the Hutu extremist groups

4. NGOs have to market themselves and thus spend lots of money to get contracts to help more

5. NGOs hide the fact that many of their stuffs were taken by Hutu leaders so the NGOs would raise the number of people they were helping in order cover up that they lost a large percentage of materials/food to theft and corruption

6. Journalists are more likely to get their way paid to cover a crisis by an NGO, thus raising questions about the images they send back. Likely not going to be as objective.

Now, none of this suggests we shouldn’t provide humanitarian aid to refugees in warzones. But it does remind us that our help can also hurt others. Being wise as serpents and harmless as doves is a lot harder than we might expect.

Given our trip to the region next month, I have to remember that our good intentions are not always enough. I’m not sure how our help can hurt but if we don’t ask the questions, we won’t know either. Here are some open questions

1. Does short-term trauma recovery efforts start a healing process but fail to keep it going thus encouraging more hope than discouragement?

2. Does bringing people together to talk about trauma unintentionally trigger trauma or feelings of rage (we won’t know if some people are considered the “wrong kind of people”)?

3. How does taking pictures or filming any part influence the “data” we think we are collecting?

Leave a comment

Filed under conflicts, Congo, counseling, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Rwanda, Uncategorized

Trauma Recovery Work in the DRC and Rwanda

Location map of Rwanda

Image via Wikipedia

It is official. Diane Langberg and I have our tickets for our upcoming trip to the Congo (DRC) and Rwanda where we will be interacting with trauma victims, pastors (who are also trauma victims), Bible Society and World Vision workers, and probably medical and education officials as well.

We leave on October 10 and arrive in Uganda on the 11th. We will be traveling into the DRC in the northeast quadrant (picture tiny plane!) near Bunia and also to Goma, on the shores of Lake Kivu and under the shadow of a large and active volcano. There we will be observing the work of the American Bible Society and She’s My Sister as well as meeting with rape and trauma survivors.

On the 17th, Lord willing, we’ll drive from Goma into Rwanda to Kigali. There we will be joined by colleague Carol King (Langberg & Associates therapist) and Josh Straub of the AACC and our Rwandan compatriots Josephine (WV) and Baraka (IJM) and will lead a  three-day training seminar re: trauma recovery resources and best practices. The plan is to return home via Kenyatta airport and Brussels on the 22nd.

Prepping for the trip includes everything from shots to planning who does what training segments. Those of you inclined to do so, pray for the logistics there as World Vision Rwanda puts the final touches on the location of training and invitees. A lot of work must happen for this to go smoothly. Also, there is an effort to raise funds for this (Project Tuza) at the AACC World Conference in Nashville the last week of September. Pray that attendees will catch a vision and support us as they can.

Anyone wishing to donate can here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Congo, counseling, counseling science, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Rwanda, trauma, Uncategorized

Must Read: Diane Langberg on “Trauma as a Mission Field”

My supervisor, mentor, and colleague, Dr. Diane Langberg has been telling us for some time that “trauma is the mission field of our time.” Recently, however, a few Christian NGO/Missions leaders have heard this line in one of her talks and have become electrified by it. I cited it last week in a board meeting at Biblical as I was trying to make the case that developing postgraduate trauma training at Biblical fits our mission: following Jesus into the world.

But, some of you have not heard her give one of these talks. For you, I point you to the World Reformed Fellowship website so you can read a report she made on June 5 regarding the problem of trauma and the opportunity of the church to have a hand in healing this man-made scourge. Below is an excerpt of that short report. Do go to the WRF link and read it in its entirety. The report is not long but it is powerful and includes a couple of specific comments from two leaders in Africa.

We are the church. That means we are the body of Jesus Christ and He is our Head. In the physical realm, a body that does not follow its head is a sick body. That is also true in the spiritual realm. We are His people and I believe with all my heart He has called us to go out of ourselves and follow Him into the suffering of this world bearing both His character and His Word. And we do go – we send missionaries and the Scriptures; we provide food, clean water, education and jobs for many. And we should. We have rarely, however, seen trauma as a place of service. If we think carefully about the extensive natural disasters in our time such as earthquakes, hurricanes and tsunamis and combine those victims with the many manmade disasters – the violent inner cities, wars, genocides, trafficking, rapes, and child abuse we would have a staggering number. I believe that if we would stop and look out on suffering humanity we would begin to realize that trauma is perhaps the greatest mission field of the 21st century.


Filed under Abuse, christian counseling, christian psychology, Christianity, Congo, counseling, counseling skills, Diane Langberg, Great Quotes, missional, Missional Church, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Rwanda

Report on sexual violence in the DRC

I’m coming late to this but just finished reading an April 2010 report on the problem of rape in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. The report is supported by Oxfam and is written by the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative. You can read the 66 page report or quick overview by clicking here.

What they document (between years of ’04 and ’08) is a retrospective study of 4,311 rape victims at post-rape interview at Panzi Hospital in South Kivu area (well-known for their pelvic surgeries to repair fistulae caused by rape). The results indicate that while war-related rape may be decreasing, there is an over 1700% increase in civilian rape. Evidence of a culture change as a result of a war?

Very difficult read. Most victims were gang raped at night, in their homes, in front of their families. Necessary for those who want to understand the experiences of these women. Most of the efforts to help are about either (a) surgical repair or (b) economic recovery. This makes total sense since these are the top two issues victims face (often victims are abandoned by their families or lost their families during the rapes). But what to do about psychological trauma? What works for these women who do not have the time nor the money to go to therapy?

Leave a comment

Filed under Abuse, Congo, counseling science, suffering

rape counseling programs?

I have the pleasure of serving the American Bible Society as a volunteer these days. They have launched the project, “She’s My Sister” to work to care for rape trauma victims in the Democratic Republic of Congo and other countries in the “Great Lakes” region of Africa. But unlike most projects that want to help the needy, a central feature of the project is to change you and I so that we together work to value women more and protect their dignity and lives.

As part of an advisory council for the ABS, I’m looking to find any rape or trauma recovery programs that are in use now in Africa. If you know of anyone who has (a) lived in the region of Central Africa, or (b) has worked in Africa and had to deal with traumas (genocide, war, rape, etc.) will you ask them if they know of ANY rape or trauma programs being used. They can be good or bad, Christian or non-christian, big or small.

The ABS has a good plan already but we are looking to make it even more successful and we especially want to know what does or doesn’t work.

Feel free to pass on names or contacts who could help us!


Filed under Abuse, Congo, ptsd, Rwanda