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Congo Relief Work Continues Despite Kony Threat

By Stan Friedman

GOMA, DR CONGO (April 12, 2012) – Covenanters who have cared for the victims of the terror caused by Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) say he will be difficult to catch, and even if he is apprehended or killed, other brutal warlords already operating in the region will continue the violence.

“He has been a threat for a long time, but there are so many like him,” says Judy Anderson, executive director of Heal Africa, which operates a hospital in the eastern Congo city of Goma. “There are so many guns around here – too, too many guns.”

Anderson is a member of Monroe Covenant Church in Monroe, Washington, and Heal Africa has worked with the Congo Covenant Church, Covenant World Relief, and the Paul Carlson Partnership.

While doing mission work with Covenant partner Medical Teams International in 2009, Calla Holmgren and her mother, Kathy, treated Congolese who had fled to Uganda to escape the violence that was claiming the lives of 45,000 people a month at the time.
Calla is an obstetrician and Kathy is a nurse.

The brutality of Kony and the LRA has recently been the subject of intense international attention. A reported 87 million people have watched a documentary on atrocities attributed to Kony that spread across the Internet via social media. The International Criminal Court has branded Kony a war criminal and is seeking to try him for atrocities that include murder, maiming, and forcing children they have kidnapped to become soldiers.

“Of course, now Joseph Kony is probably somewhere in Congo,” says Calla. “Having climbed a mountain located in the area of Uganda, Congo and Rwanda, I can only imagine how hard it would be to catch him and bring him to justice.”

Medical Teams International has been serving the refugees on the Uganda side of the border since 2002. Heal Africa has ministered in Congo since 2000. It is a Congolese-led organization that works to eradicate poor health, poverty, and the oppression of women.

The teaching hospital in Goma specializes in orthopedic and gynecological surgery. They have treated people involved in all sides of the conflict.

Eastern Congo is the bloodiest region of a country the United Nations has called the most impoverished in the world. Ironically, it is the region’s riches of rare minerals that have driven much of the cruelest violence.

Armed groups raise hundreds of millions of dollar every year by selling the minerals that eventually are used in electronic devices such as cell phones, portable music players, and computers. Tracking where the materials in our everyday products come from is almost impossible, experts say.

“I don’t think there’s anyone really innocent,” says Anderson, who North Park University named its 2010 Alumni of the Year. She and other observers say the Ugandan Army uses the violence perpetuated by Kony in that country as an excuse to enter Congo under the guise of pursuing him, although they primarily are interested in controlling the minerals, vast amounts of oil, and securing trade routes.

Despite the ubiquitous violence, no employees of Heal Africa have ever been assaulted while working for the ministry, says Anderson. She points to the policy of not allowing guns or any political promotion at the hospital. The armed groups also have left the ministry alone because it has served everyone regardless of the patients’ allegiances.

Worldwide attention to the violence has declined in recent weeks, according to various news outlets. A follow-up video by the organization that produced the first one has attracted only half a million views, far below the level of attention paid the original.

Still, the work of Heal Africa and Medical Teams International continues.

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