Category Archives: Democratic Republic of 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

DRC/Rwanda Trip: October 14, 2011

Day 4:

A breakfast of coffee, fruit and egg and we’re off visiting rape victims and those who help them today. First stop is the DOCS hospital (Doctors on Call for Service) run by a gynecologist, Dr. Ahuka Ona Longombe. This hospital specializes in obstetrics and in fistula surgery for rape victims. Dr. Ahuka if a larger than life, forceful personality. The ABS has done some partnering to provide the hospital with some better equipment. After touring the facility, he took us to a room to show us his PowerPoint presentation on the causes of sexual violence, the impact on women and the work they do to repair. It was a difficult slide show (with a few pictures!). If you think of rape as forced intercourse only, think again!

He showed us current stats (42,225 cases of reported sexual violence as of 2 years ago). He pointed out how these stats are very likely LOW due to stigma, violence, and the complexities of multiple reporting agencies. Victims during the reporting period are 21% little girls, 56% young women, and 23% old women.

Only 25% get treatment within the desired 3 days.

While they do HIV/STD testing and treatment, medical, surgical, nursing, spiritual, and legal care, Dr. Ahuka repeatedly begged for help for the psychological damage. As a team we discussed whether it would be possible to send two high level interns (even post grads) for 6 months to focus on training nursing and doctor staff as well as lay people from local churches who might reach out and care for the spiritual needs of these terribly traumatized women. Interns would have to be able to speak French.

Diane holding the the hand of "C" (translator at center)

Typical home with lava chunk wall

Leaving the hospital we traveled some very bumpy roads to Sister Alvera’s home. Now, all roads are bumpy in Goma. But these roads were the bumpiest. I kept expecting to lose teeth or an axle. Sister Alvera, a nun who runs an orphanage and home for raped women, was not home but they were expecting us. We came for the express purpose of talking to two women who have been treated by Dr. Ahuka for fistulas and who were willing to tell their trauma story. We were most interested to hear how they are learning to cope. The first young woman, C, had bright eyes and passion all about her. We met in her small abode, something akin to a shed in this country. She told of her rape and her treatments. Through the translator we heard how she experiences both joy and deep pain (she has been rejected by her family because of the rape). She described her struggle with dissociation as, “getting lost in my mind.” Sleeping, talking to the local pastor and being prayed for were helpful interventions. Near the end of our time with C we heard her lament that she could not find her attacker in order to forgive him. The pressure to do so seemed to eat at her. She felt she could not rest until she forgave him. Diane had the presence to respond that while she wasn’t able to find him, God could see her heart and the forgiveness in it. This seemed very meaningful to C.

"X" and her adorable baby

The 2nd woman, X, had been raped and given birth to a child. The child had been rejected but lived in the compound. Sitting with X was her new little baby who played with nearby fingers and nursed when fussy. This woman was far more triggered during our conversations. Her eyes were missing light. She did not look present. However, she described a caring husband and pastor who helped her cope with her trauma experiences.

The rain, which had been pounding down for our interviews let up just as we were getting ready to run to our vehicles to leave. A view of several green cauldrons  came into view through the puffy clouds passing by. From the Sister’s place we traveled to the local bible society office. We got to see the bibles we would be giving out the next day as well as opportunity to meet the staff. I can attest to two things about the bible society. They keep amazing records on all the widows and children they serve (food, stuffs, etc.) and they do not spend their money on expensive property. Back in 2002, their offices were destroyed by the lava eruption and now they rent rather humble space. If you give the bible society, you can expect your money to go to people and services, not bricks and mortar!

We ended the day back that the hotel with a enjoyable dinner meeting with World Relief country director, Charles Franzen, and two of his staff. Our dinner was outside under a thatch canopy and just above the loud lapping waves of Kivu. I can only describe him as a character–in the best sense of the word. He speaks Swahili but not French and has lived for many years in East Africa. We had wide-ranging conversations about Africa, Baltimore (his home town), baseball (his dislike for Dustin Pedroia of the Red Sox) and football (soccer). And of course the work of trauma recovery was a central topic this evening.


Filed under Abuse, Christianity, counseling, counseling science, counseling skills, Democratic Republic of Congo

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

Trauma Recovery Work in Africa: Itinerary

Those of you interested in trauma recovery work can feel free to pray through our upcoming trip and itinerary (as well as for our families!). Our team (Diane Langberg, Carol King, Josh Straub, Baraka Unwingeneye, Josephine Munyeli, and me) will be providing a 3 day trauma recovery training for Rwandan nationals October 19-21 funded by generous donors from the AACC and WorldVision. Diane and I are leaving early for some assessment work with the American Bible Society and national bible societies in the region.

  • Oct 10-11: DL and PM to Entebbe, Uganda to meet up with African and American Bible Society leaders
  • Oct 12: DL and PM (via MAF plane) to Bunia, DRC to meet with Bible Society workers and those receiving care
  • Oct 13: DL and PM (via MAF plane) to Beni, DRC to meet with seminary/university professionals; then on to Goma, DRC
  • Oct 14-16: DL and PM meeting with Bible Society staff, trauma victims, and trauma recovery workers in Goma, DRC
  • Oct 14: JS and CK to leave for Kigali, RW
  • Oct 17: DL and PM to drive from Goma, DRC to Kigali, RW
  • Oct 18: Meetings, prep for conference
  • Oct 19-21: Conference lead by BU, JM, DL, JS, CK, and PM for WorldVision workers, clergy, educators, and others
  • Oct 21: Leave Kigali
  • Oct 22: Arrive Philadelphia

Pray for health, safety, ability to listen well, to teach well and to be flexible. Pray for our families in just the same way.

Leave a comment

Filed under "phil monroe", AACC, christian counseling, christian psychology, Democratic Republic of Congo, Goma, Rwanda, teaching counseling, trauma

Trauma the greatest mission field of this time?

Sometimes a line you say strikes a nerve. It happened this morning when Diane Langberg made a passing comment to attendees at the She’s My Sister impact summit. Diane was to make some introductory comments about the nature of trauma and the fact that God’s children, the body of Christ, “are to follow the head” into the problem of injustice. Following her I was to make some summary of the trauma healing advisory council’s work from the previous day.

To a room full of ministry leaders (from World Relief, IJM, Saddleback Church, American Bible Society and other international societies), Diane made this statement,

Trauma is the greatest mission field of this time.

Soon after a number of folks began running with this idea. Trauma, they could see, is an opportunity serve others and bring the Gospel to bear in word and deed. Trauma is everywhere. The need is overwhelming. The Gospel has something to say about the experience of suffering and what the Christian life offers to suffering people. One of the first ways people heal from traumatic events is when they are able to speak their experience; when they feel heard and cared for. They realize they matter.

Abolition of slavery was the great mission field of the 19th century. Trauma may be that field for this season.

1 Comment

Filed under Abuse, christian counseling, christian psychology, Democratic Republic of Congo

Deception 101: Pulling off a massive fraud

Want to pull off a grand deception of mass proportions and in so doing rule a people? Look no further than King Leopold II and his colonizing efforts in the Congo. He was able to destroy a country while all the time convince others that he only wished to be father protector for the country.

Yes, it helps to have lots of money to buy opinions outright. However, Leopold didn’t need to spend much money to get the opinions he wanted. Why? Most of us are easily “bought off” by being associated with wealth and fame. It is also good to have an attractive exterior (and by attractive I don’t mean beauty as much as I mean desirable). But money and attraction alone will not be enough. You must consider doing the following:

1.      Find any number of people who will vouch for you. In order to pull off a grand deception you need emissaries who will secure the trust of important gatekeepers. These emissaries tend to be easily persuaded because they have a particular Achilles heel for fame or money. They are fame mongers.

2.      Buy some airtime and print space in order to advance the notion that you may be the most humble person with only the most philanthropic intentions for the place or the people you want to control. Be sure to focus on existing evils that you wish to bring to an end by your tireless sacrifices.

3.      Convene think tanks of those with expertise or interests in the area—those who might want to get in on the action be also those who really do want to address the evils (see #2) you say you want to stop. It is essential that these folks have solid ability to strategize and make decisions. Further, they should be quite assured that they are the most gifted individuals who can solve pesky problems. Flattery helps!

4.      By all means, do not tell these individuals your true intentions. Instead,

5.      Get these very energetic folks to start making decisions about how to care for the poor saps who haven’t enough wits to help themselves. They needn’t have any significant expertise in the area. Just give them some maps and let them start deciding what resources they think are needed, who should be in charge, who should do the work, and how to best do all of this without getting the rest of the world needlessly involved or suspicious—you know, to avoid red tape that will only slow down altruistic efforts.

6.      Make sure the think tanks recognize your great desire to do good and get them to vote you to head the efforts. You need to have power, remember. But don’t look too eager…agree to let someone else lead the newly formed committee next year. And send them home with gifts and ready to spread your good name to all who will listen.

7.      Be sure to give none of them any real power. When you convene the group next time, only invite those most loyal to you. Of course you’ll keep leading the group.

8.      Questions will arise from those not involved. Be very perceptive. What is their concern? Tell each person what they want to hear. Say it with passion and clarity. Get them to agree that you are the right person for the job and to say it publicly.

9.      Now that you have your “permissions”, start working two plans. The first plan is some small efforts to fix problems you said you would fix. Do it very publicly. Pay for journalists if you must. The “real” plan must also begin now. Do this quietly and without fanfare…someplace where you will not get much attention. If anyone complains, have ready a very realistic excuse. Admit to some problems but make sure it looks like you had nothing to do with the problem.

And there you have it. You have pulled on your grad deception. If you want to read how King Leopold II did this for real…read chapters 3-5 of Adam Hochschild’s King Leopold’s Ghost. It is an excellent example of deception and using the cover of kindness to get what you want. Even Christian missionary movements sung his praises and gave him money because they bought his story.

Now, most of us have no plans to create a colony but I suspect that we all have moments where we try to look more honorable than we really are. The difference between us and Leopold is the scope of our intention.

Leave a comment

Filed under deception, Democratic Republic of Congo

Can one person do anything about mass rape?

Cover of "King Leopold's Ghost: A Story o...

Cover via Amazon

Ever notice how we can feel quite helpless when we hear about evil on a mass level? We’ve all had times when we’d rather turn away from systemic evil because we can’t stand to look at what we cannot change.

But check out the story of one Edmund Dene Morel as told in King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa (by Adam Hochschild, Houghton Mifflin, 1998). Most likely you’ve never heard of him or the mass destruction of 5-8 million Congolese during the reign of Leopold II, Belgian King who “owned” the Congo during the turn of the 20th century.

Instead of my summarizing this story, click the link above and read the story yourself (link goes to Amazon’s search inside, p. 1). You will see that one person who saw the problem of slavery and raping a country and did not turn away. Rather, he made it is work to tell the world and cause Americans and Europeans to rise up and force the government of Belgium to take control of that area away from their king.

Once again, the Congo is facing the destruction of some of its population–the women. The main method is not slavery but rape. The instigators are warring groups, Congolese and outsiders. The goal is to destroy by destroying families, spreading HIV and fear. Many women are raped multiple times.

What will we do?

Consider writing to your congressmen or the president or Sec Clinton to speak out about this problem. Also, you might consider giving to groups that are working in the area to care for these women and/or trying to change culture. Doctors without Borders (MSF), Amnesty International, American Bible Society, and many others are working in the area. And start with talking to your friends about this problem.

Unknown people can do much when we are willing to speak the truth.


Filed under Abuse, church and culture, Democratic Republic of Congo