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Congo religious leaders seek to build awareness of war

September 11, 2012

NEW YORK CITY

A delegation of religious leaders from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is visiting the U.S and Canada as part of a tour seeking to build awareness of a re-emerging war at the border of the DRC and Rwanda.

On Sept. 10, the leaders were in Canada’s capital, Ottawa, to meet with government officials. On Sept. 12-13, the Toronto School of Theology and Emmanuel College of Victoria University in the University of Toronto will host the delegation, according to a university news release.

On Sept. 8, a summit meeting of leaders from countries in the southeastern Great Lakes region, including the DRC, Rwanda and Tanzania, ended without appreciable progress on resolving the conflict, according to the news website allafrica.com.

However, the leaders approved the formation of a “neutral international force” to be deployed within three months on peacekeeping operations.

A group of renegade soldiers called M23, allegedly backed by Rwanda, has clashed with the DRC’s regular army troops. The U.N. has said the conflict also involves access to mining operations for such minerals as coltan, which is used in cell phones and laptop computers.

The U.N. also estimates that the fighting has uprooted nearly half a million people in DRC’s North and South Kivu provinces, many of whom have fled to Uganda and Rwanda. 

Last week, the religious leaders presented a petition to the U.N. on behalf of millions of Congolese citizens and met with members of the U.S. Congress and White House staff. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he will call a high-level meeting on the situation on Sept. 27 during the General Assembly’s session in New York.

A similar re-occurrence of war in 1998 drew seven African nations into “Africa’s World War” and left an estimated 5.4 million persons dead, the university said.

Believing that the lack of international pressure on belligerent parties allowed the 1998 war to devastate the country, the religious leaders are seeking to build international awareness of the dynamics of war in this region of Africa and to urge religious, civic and political leaders to call for an end to the current fighting.

At the University of Toronto, a panel discussion on Sept. 13 about the emerging war and presentation of the petition will include Bishop Ntambo Nkulu Ntanda of the United Methodist Church, Emma Zanao Selenani of the Women’s Initiative for Peace in the Great Lakes Region, Prof. Raymond Mande Mutombo of the University of Lubumbashi in the DRC and Abbe Leonard Santedi Kinkupu, Secretary General of the National Episcopal Conference of Congo.

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