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Ed Jones' op-ed column on the Congo: Hope survives.
Ed Jones (left) and Buck Blanchard (the Episcopal Diocese of Va.) are greeted joyously.
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THERE IS NO place on Earth that so desperately needs our help, and that we know so little about, as the Democratic Republic of the Congo. But here's the catch: The Congo is complicated.
Don't bother looking for silver bullets to cure its poverty. "Good guys" and "bad guys" are difficult to label when up to 40 armed groups roam the bush country near the border with Rwanda. Optimism for political progress is tough to come by in a country the size of Western Europe that has never experienced a truly functioning central government. Fixing the ailing economy won't be easy in a nation relegated, like Somalia, to the ranks of failed states in a continent otherwise showing impressive growth.
Yet hope survives in the swath of central Africa known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It survives in the Congolese people, 70 million and growing, who have proved amazingly resilient and energetic through a brutal colonial history and a chaotic half-century of independence. It survives in the communities of faith that are making a difference through training programs that give the orphans of a two-decade war another chance at life. It survives in the positive prospects for developing the nation's natural resources.
The Congo is worth the time and effort it takes to understand a land whose history has been compared to the structure of an onion--layer after layer of complexities.
After spending a week in May in the eastern Congo cities of Goma and Bukavu, I came away not cowed by the complexities, but inspired by them. What I witnessed counters the temptation to shrug off a place like the Congo as hopeless. Good people are doing good things that make a positive difference. That's all the reason we need to keep at it.
DEPRIVATIONS AND JOY
My two colleagues from the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia and I traveled by commercial and charter flight and by speed boat to the eastern Congo to connect with Anglican Church leaders and workers. They are bolstering the physical, emotional, and spiritual lives of people in that region. It would be hard to overstate the deprivations we saw, or the joy and courage of the people we witnessed.
THE SILVER LINING IN THE CONGO? ITS RESILIENT POPULACE
Ed Jones is editor