There are no simple explanations for the recent outbreaks of violence in and around Beni. The region owns a complex history of proxy wars,rebel groups with ill-defined agendas and fluid memberships, political maneuvering, and shifting regional alliances. Add to the mix human capacity for violence and selfish ambition, and the various narratives soon tangle on themselves.
Since early October outbreaks of violence have battered the city of Beni and its surrounding region. Rebel groups are blamed for random attacks and the murder of more than 120 people. Several thousand civilians have fled their homes in outlying areas to seek refuge in town. Households have tripled and quadrupled in size as families seek safety in numbers. A 6-hour gunfight on November 2 held the town hostage, and residents of one quartier were evacuated after the discovery of two bombs on November 6. Angry mobs have destroyed private and public property. Flyers announcing imminent attacks have fueled fear, and rapid-fire rumors wrestle with the truth. Shambas (small-hold farms) sit unattended as farmers fear leaving town to cultivate their fields. Food prices are rising.
But there’s a better story—a story of light and life, a story of faith and hope.
UCBC classes were scheduled to begin on October 30. But beginning on October 28, and for the next 8 days, violence and tensions increased. These events prompted UCBC staff and leadership to take precautionary, practical, and prayerful measures. Staff and leadership decided to delay the opening of classes by a few days so things could settle down. They also decided to shorten the school day so students and staff could return home well before dark. A local business formed by recent UCBC graduates began work with UCBC staff to develop an SMS (short message service—i.e., text message) app so university administration could send news, info, and updates to the entire student body. And the community continued to pray.
An email from Daniel Masumbuko (UCBC Chaplain and Finance Administrator) on November 3 recalled the new story.
Let us hold strong our holy Hope—Christ in us, the Hope of glory! He will never fail us with regards to His Kingdom that's among us, with us, in us and through us. He's been faithful. He usually lays His head for rest on the storm amidst a highly troubled sea. What's happening may actually be a continuation of the devil's anger against the light shining from Beni…, bringing back Shekinah in DRC by contributing to the renewal of His Church…. I think of Psalm 2: "Why do the nations conspire... kings of the earth rise up... AGAINST HIS ANOINTED...let us break their chains and throw off their shackles...THE ONE ENTHRONED IN HEAVEN LAUGHS..." Let us remember that with all that happening and all the emerging universities in Beni, 150 new students enrolled at UCBC!
The next day Honoré Bunduki Kwany (UCBC Academic Dean and Acting Interim Rector ) confirmed,
I am very much encouraged by the attitude of our staff. Despite the situation, all are strong and continue to serve. … Our biggest challenge is that we are a bit far from the center town. But this should not bring us to let the enemy dishearten us. For in Isaiah 41:10 the Lord tells us five things. (1) He is with us, so we should not fear, (2) He is our God, so we should not be dismayed. (3) He promises tostrengthen us, (4) to help us and (5) to hold us with the right hand of his righteousness. He is more than able and he proved it for Israel, Elisha and his Servant when they were surrounded by their enemies (2 Kings 6:8-23).
On Wednesday, November 5, UCBC launched the academic year with a community-wide chapel service and orientation sessions. That the year began a week later than originally planned does not matter. What does matter is that—
- 150 new students have enrolled at UCBC, despite the current, local insecurity
- faculty, staff, and students have pulled together to assist with security and communication an committed to abiding by safety guidelines
- student groups such as Women’s Voices and Creation Care Volunteers are meeting, planning the year’s activities, and getting to work
- Service Learning is in full swing with three projects underway
- UCBC's Climate Action Fellows, Sifa Jolie and Faden Sibamtaki, lead students in implementing action plans
- 300 students attend the two primary schools under the auspices of UCBC
We thank God for this new story, and are reminded of UCBC's guiding verse (Isaiah 43:18-19):
Thus says the Lord,…”Do not remember the former things; or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”Thanks be to God.