Water for a thirsty land

LVLEs Rev Jean-Paul with delegates from training in Masisi

Masisi is hard ground. Child witch accusations are rife in this part of the Democratic Republic of Congo and many churches are complicit in the abuse. But things are changing…

When our partner project LVLE ran ‘The Heart of the Matter’ training with 134 church leaders in this town in North Kivu earlier this year, the challenge seemed daunting.

Yet, as we reported in the summer edition of Bethany, what happened was a powerful move of the Spirit. Pastors broke down and wept as they faced up to the harsh reality of what was going on in ‘prayer rooms’ across the city.

They shared painful stories of having seen children brutally abused and even killed in so-called deliverance rituals which are believed to kill up to ten children in Masisi each year.

Determined not to lose momentum, Pastor Jean-Paul Aruna and his LVLE team have been following up with groups of these pastors. In the first follow-up session, 32 out of the 35 pastors invited turned out to revisit ‘Heart of the Matter’ in summary form.

Just as significantly, the participants encouraged Jean-Paul to raise the issue of child witch accusations with the civil authorities – and he was warmly received. Officials, including the police, discussed with him the phenomenon and its strong association with local ‘prayer rooms’ – and with marginalised children living in poverty. They seem keen to collaborate with LVLE and the local church – and to receive ‘Heart of the Matter’ training themselves.

LVLE’s Director, Rev Jean-Paul Aruna, leads workshop delegates in prayer.

LVLE is now proposing a joint working group with representatives of the church and local authorities to tackle and end the abuse. To start with, LVLE will help them devise a child protection policy, enforceable by the police, to which it hopes all local ‘prayer rooms’ will become signatories.

BCT’s Carolyn Gent says the significance of this connection with local officials should not be underestimated. ‘This is an extraordinary opportunity and a real step forward,’ she says. ‘Congolese law prohibits accusations of witchcraft against children but the law is seldom enforced. If the authorities will work with LVLE to protect children, especially in the “prayer rooms”, that will be a hugely positive outcome from the trainings in a context where generally children are harmed with impunity.’

Given the nature of this work, Jean-Paul and BCT are all too aware of the need to immerse it in prayer. The local context is fraught with challenges too: the trainings earlier this year were interrupted twice by ethnic conflict and there have been confirmed cases of Ebola in Goma, where LVLE is based. A serious fire at LVLE’s premises recently caused considerable damage and disruption.

But Jean-Paul is undeterred. ‘We give God the glory for all that we’ve been able to achieve so far,’ he says.

Please pray for LVLE as they open people’s eyes to the abuse being perpetrated against children through insidious lies and child witch accusations. Pray that the civil authorities will make it a priority that staff, including police, receive ‘Heart of the Matter’ training. Praise God for the way that he is speaking through all our partner projects to give fresh vision to families and communities, so they see children through his eyes.