Tag Archives: Goma

Update on the Complexities of Goma, DRC…And Why You Should Care


Followers of this blog will know that I have been to Eastern Congo and am passionate about the people there. You also know that there is a rather ugly and complex struggle for power in that region. This link to a Huff Post opinion piece provides an insight to some of those current complexities from an insider’s perspective. For example, some found the M23 group as elevating safety over that of the government soldiers. And yet, the M23 group may be funded by outsiders with evil intent.

I highly recommend you read it. You might ask why, since what goes on in the DRC has little to do with your life. You should care because,

  1. the extent of the recent decades of disaster there will boggle your mind and overshadow nearly every other disaster you care about
  2. these are our brothers and sisters and we are called to love our neighbor

The author, Julia Lewis, concludes her essay this way

The sad fact is that violence in the DRC is constant. As Congolese activist Vava Tampa recently reported in an article on CNN, the conflicts in DRC

… have claimed nearly the same number of lives as having a 9/11 attack every single day for 360 days, the genocide that struck Rwanda in 1994, the ethnic cleansing that overwhelmed Bosnia in the mid-1990s, the genocide that took place in Darfur, the number of people killed in the great tsunami that struck Asia in 2004, and the number of people who died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki — all combined and then doubled.

What will happen next in DRC? Anything is possible — and we need the world to keep listening. As many as 5.4 million people died in the last Congo war. That is fact, not fiction. And we cannot afford for it to happen again.

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Filed under DRC, Goma, News and politics, trauma

Praying for Goma


Last year I had the privilege of touring Goma (search Congo 0r Goma or DRC in my search engine above) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). It is a city on the northern edge of Lake Kivu and on the border with Rwanda. Residents of Goma (and all of the displaced persons) have known much tragedy, especially since 1994 when the genocide in Rwanda spilled over into the DRC. There have been African multicountry wars, ethnic conflicts, rampant poverty, corruption, an ineffective central government…and now, today, it has fallen into the hands of a relatively small band of rebels called M23.

If you are like most, you find the regions somewhat confusing. You’ve heard about the area being deemed the rape capitol of the world. You’ve heard it is an area rich in minerals. You may have heard recently that Rwanda has been accused of supporting the M23 group. But, you probably find it hard to keep the various acronyms clear in your mind and the situation in Gaza and Israel get most of the conflict attention these days.

Please pray for those in the DRC. Pray for rescue. Pray that the international community will care about them and put proper pressure on the various parties. Pray for the restraint of evil. And if you would like more information, read this link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2012/11/20/a-guide-to-understanding-whats-happening-in-congo/

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Filed under Africa, Rwanda

Pray for the Congo (DRC) this week


DRC, orthographic projection.

Image via Wikipedia

Today, November 28, 2011, Congolese have been voting in presidential and parliament elections. For those of you who followed my DRC/Rwanda trip posts, I encourage you to lift up this country, its leaders, and the people. As you likely know, the country has a weak central government, an assortment of militias roaming the north and east, wrecking havoc in the form of rape where ever they go. It is a lovely country, resource rich (minerals) and yet one of the poorest places in the world.

Pray for no violence. Pray for leaders with integrity. Pray for the church to be the church. Pray for nonprofit ministries like the Bible Society in the Congo. Pray for a united will among all the peoples to stand against rape.

Read this short news item in the WSJ on the elections.

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Filed under News and politics

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.

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

DRC/Rwanda Trip: October 13, 2011


Up by 5:30am, a nice breakfast (omelet, Nescafe, fresh avocado half, and bread with Nutella), and then a trip to the airport to catch another MAF flight hop south to Beni (3 hour stop) and then on to Goma in the afternoon.

The flight to Beni from Bunia lasts about 35 minutes and travels a over verdant landscapes criss-crossed with reddish dirt paths. Wish we could stop here and there to check out some of the remote places. We see frequent fires being used to burn vegetation to prepare the land for farming. We arrived on time to Beni, a tiny dirt-tracked airport. I do not believe the small building space we walked through had electricity. Surprisingly, the road outside the airport was paved. In fact, it was the best paved road I saw in all of the DRC. We hear that the Chinese built it. What is the pay off for them I wonder.

Our quick car trip takes us to UCBC, a bilingual christian university in the town. We met with a number of young teachers and staff along with Daniel Masumbuko Kasereka, the chaplain and an administrator. The school was running some intensive English language classes in preparation of the start of a new term. Here too we hear about the trauma in students and the negative impact on their learning. We also learn about their attempts to bring some trauma recovery to the community by hosting some seminars using the trauma/reconciliation materials of Rhiannon Lloyd. We hear of sex trafficking and abduction of women by militias. Our time is short but we do have some good conversation with them. Nice to meet Baraka Kasali, the son of the rector and someone who clearly was raised in the US but using his talents in this small area. Also, met an American, Bethany Earickson who teaches English here.

Our time is short so we say our goodbyes (after using the pit toilets), pile back in the car and head back to the MAF plane awaiting our trip to Goma. We arrive at Goma around 1:00pm. Sadly, it was raining and so we did not get a view of the massive volcano just outside Goma. Instead we dodged clouds, flew over high peaks and Lake Albert, and then flew just above the tree tops to avoid turbulence.

First sights at the airport are rusting UN aircraft, lookouts, someone who demands money for landing, and customs officials who laboriously re-enter all of our visa information. Our passports disappear and then reappear. Not sure what they do with them.The trip to the hotel is our first glimpse of this chaotic city. All streets are rutted with potholes and unpaved. Piles of lava chunks litter the streets. Besides potholes and lava, you see boys going in every direction pushing the congolese “bike” as they transport goods hither and yon?

We arrive at Hotel Linda by 2pm. Hotel Linda sits on the edge (literally) of Lake Kivu. It is a beautiful view and beautiful sound (waves). This will be our home base for the next several days. Kingfishers are sitting on flowers outside my room. I find that the hotel has a public computer and free (slow) internet so I quick pop off an email to my family to let them know we have arrived. We have time to rest and talk about what we have so far seen and heard and how we might develop a trauma curriculum for training the faculties of various schools. For dinner, I choose Capitaine fish (chunks not fillet) cooked in spices and a banana leaf. Excellent.

Tomorrow begins an intense time of listening to trauma workers and trauma victims.

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Filed under AACC, counseling, counseling science, 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.

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

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?

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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.

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