Mission Aviation Fellowship Aids Displaced Congolese Fleeing Violence and Dealing with Mental Trauma

John Cadd of MAF visits a refugee camp in Bunia, eastern DRC, in March 2018. (Photo courtesy of Ashley Petersen with MAF)

Violence is on the rise in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo between tribes, militia, and other groups. Over one million people across the DRC are newly displaced in the last eight months – one of the worst rates of displacement in the world.

Most recently, attacks by the Cooperative for the Development of the Congo (CODECO) have killed almost 1,000 people in the Ituri region. CODECO draws much of its support from the Lendu ethnic group, while most of the people they attack are ethnic Hema.

The United Nations says CODECO’s acts of violence, mutilation, and murder could constitute crimes against humanity. The militia group has currently agreed to a ceasefire.

Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) operates out of Nyankunde in eastern DRC and provides aviation services to foster the growth of the Gospel in isolated areas. But they also respond to local needs where they serve.

Ron Wismer, MAF’s program manager in eastern DRC, says the uptick in people fleeing the violence near their homes has impacted the ministry.

“We have increased our passenger loads by about five times. We used to do about 20 passengers a week perhaps one-way, so maybe 40 total. Now we’re up to 200 [passengers] both ways… It’s been greatly increased because people are afraid to take the road.”

MAF operates in two out of the three major Internally Displaced Peoples (IDP) camps in Bunia. What they see there understandably is a mental health crisis. “In those camps, we have been finding people that are traumatized, people that have seen things that we really don’t want to talk about,” Wismer says. “But their houses have been burned. Many of their relatives have been killed or raped. So it’s a difficult situation. But people feel safer there than they do back in their own villages.”

MAF’s chaplain, Pastor Bisoke, supports other pastors in the camps and even hosts Jesus Film showings. He hasn’t been able to show the Jesus Film during the start of COVID-19 shutdowns, but as restrictions have loosened a bit, he can now host film showings again.

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SOURCE: Mission Network News, Lyndsey Koh

CALL TO ACTION

  • Pray for peace over eastern DR Congo.
  • Ask the Lord to bless the DRC’s leaders with wisdom as they seek resolution.
  • Pray encouragement for the counselors MAF works with as they help others with their trauma.