A dozen international peacemakers from 10 countries around the world will visit congregations and presbyteries of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) from Sept. 24-Oct. 18.
They will share their stories about church-based ministries in their countries that seek peace justice and pursue peace in the name of Jesus Christ. This year's international peacemakers come from Bolivia, Central Asia, Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Indonesia, Israel/Palestine, Mexico, Pakistan, the Philippines and Sudan.
The International Peacemaker program is sponsored by the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program.
The Rev. Probe Augustin Mukendi Kabongo is a pastor and executive secretary of Tshibashi Presbytery of the Presbyterian Community in the Congo (CPC), Democratic Republic of the Congo. A graduate of Sheppards and Lapsley University Seminary in Kananga, Kabongo is co-founder and coordinator for Presbyterian Action against HIV/AIDS in his country.
Q: Where will you be going?
- First Presbyterian Church, New York City
- Hastings College, Hastings, Nebraska
- Holston Presbytery, eastern Tennessee
- Presbytery of Lake Huron, eastern Michigan
- John Calvin Presbytery, eastern Kansas and Western Missouri
Q: What is the situation in your country that you will be addressing?
"I want to talk about the responsibility of our church in looking at justice and peace for people according to the injustice about gender. In Central Africa, women have no value." Kabongo said that the gender inequalities have improved somewhat, thanks to training by outside organizations.
"We want the people in the Congo themselves to take the problem as theirs."
Kabongo said that in the lower levels of schools, there were once four girls for every 10 boys. There are now six girls for every 10 boys, but he hopes that soon the numbers will be equal.
And in the church, women who went to seminary once had no chance to lead a congregation. Now, because of training, three presbyteries have made exceptions and have hired women to work in the offices and have the chance to be called as pastors.
Q: How are the faith communities addressing this situation?
"The mission of the church to look for the well-being of people can't stay without doing something about the AIDS/HIV problem. We have to fight the bad things in culture. We have to support the affected. We have to teach people to take care of themselves.
"When HIV is in a family, there can be a division. The church can reconcile. People can understand it's a disease like other diseases. It's not God punishing you. It's not witchcraft or mystics. It is a virus. That's the mission of the church."
Q: What lessons from your situation are you trying to communicate to U.S. Presbyterians?
"They can understand the problems around the world. If they are Christian, they have to understand the problems with their neighbors and they can assist and help to look for peace and well-being of people around the world.
"The U.S. is developed for many years, but Africa is late in many ways. They have to stimulate us to go up.
"When you are here, you only understand the life here. We are here to show the population that there is another reality in the world. … We have different reality."
Q: What is the primary message you want to communicate to U.S. Presbyterians?
There is much need in the DRC for money and training, Kabongo said.
"If some people found they could help this way, it's good."
Security for church and civic leaders who work in human rights is also important. "When you speak about equality and justice, you have opposition. You need security.
"We need the presence of the American, the missionary, to exchange."