“The devil does not like people to build peace”
CMS local partner Bisoke Balikenga
Thank you to all who gave to our Christmas appeal. We are thrilled that you gave over £46,500 to help CMS people in mission like Bisoke Balikenga in DR Congo to share the peace of Jesus even amid violent conflict.
Working with the Anglican Church in Congo, Bisoke started a peace centre in Bunia, the provincial capital of Ituri province in eastern DRC. Ituri is a region rocked by tribal fighting.
Thousands of people have fled attacks in their villages and travelled to Bunia in search of relative safety – with 200,000 displaced people now in the area.
They are in desperate need of food, water and shelter, and are deeply traumatised. Many women and girls who arrive at the peace centre have suffered sexual violence, and been rejected by their families as a result.
Finding faith amid turmoil
As the fighting spreads, the peace centre is now at capacity. Bisoke and his team provide clean drinking water, food, soap and help with medical bills where they can. Trained counsellors also help people cope with their trauma.
People like Regina, who lost eight children before her remaining daughter was kidnapped. Through counselling and prayer, Bisoke says, “She now prays for others, and is really transformed even though life is not easy for her.”
Bisoke reports that people are finding faith in God, even amid turmoil. In late 2021 Bisoke was preparing to baptise 20 people, with the bishop coming to confirm 22 more.
Bisoke says, “Praise the Lord for his work – even though we have great challenges, God is transforming his people. We are happy that more are giving their lives to Jesus.”
Bisoke comments that those attending a discipleship course each week “are vulnerable people and they are still suffering, but everyone is taking the decision to do God’s work”. As they grow in faith, people are improving relationships with their families and then others in the community.
Listen to the children
Bisoke is also concerned for the next generation – and in August he led a service specifically for children at the peace centre. He tells us, “The children were so happy it was their day. Many of them are orphans whose parents have been killed….
“They have seen many bad things and they went through our programme of counselling. Now they love to come to church. They sang about building peace and some of them gave testimonies, which was so hard. They asked all the people to love one another.
“Hearing what the orphaned children were saying through their songs, the adults were moved to tears. The children asked the adults, ‘Please, we need peace in order to have a positive future. Adults need to make peace, and we need to pray and trust God to give us peace.’
“Finally they said we cannot have peace when we still don’t love one another. They would like to visit other children with their message of peace and unity.”
Breaking the cycle of violence
Bisoke is committed to equipping people who have undergone trauma and violence to break the cycle and work for peace. At special peacebuilding seminars, he says, “more people came to Jesus and asked forgiveness. The seminars help participants not to pursue revenge, but they are going to forgive those who did bad to them. Some are saying that they will not seek revenge but they are going to build peace. We need to pray for them.”
Early in November local government people from different tribes came together for a peacebuilding seminar. Bisoke comments, “Now we can see our centre is not only for the Anglican Church but for the whole community.”
The community have suggested that a radio station would be a good way to reach more people with a message of peace.
Building peace together
Bisoke is not alone in seeking peace in this area. In November, CMS-Africa and CMS organised a multilingual online consultation involving over 100 people from the dioceses of Aru, Beni, Boga, Butembo, Goma and Kamango, as well as from the peace centre, the Anglican University of Congo and local and international organisations.
The theme was “making new disciples in a context of conflict”, and participants considered how to work together to raise up followers of Jesus who will work for desperately needed peace.
Even in seeming darkness, Bisoke is seeing the hope of Jesus and shares, “We are so happy that more displaced people are becoming the tools of building peace and talking about the Word of God.” With fighting coming closer and closer to the centre, he says, “We are running more risks because the devil does not like people to build peace with the help of our God. God is helping us a lot.”