Child abuse in Congo symbol of still more problems

Child abuse is a horror. But what happens when it is also a symptom of other abuse that can tear apart a country? That's what Fresno Pacific University student Doug Kulungu fears is happening in his native Congo. He addresses the issue and its implications in this Scholars Speak.

When Christians do not abide by the principles of Jesus, it makes it hard for them to convince nonbelievers or even bring them to Christ.

Congolese people, like other believers, spend hours of worship services and believe in the Gospel of Jesus. But pastors are seen as businessmen and the name of Jesus is used for money. Worse, preachers now wear many hats and people do not know who is really speaking on behalf of God.

Pastors are having affairs with their secretaries, members and wives of their assistants and, even worse, with their own sisters-in-law. Congo has suffered a lot of pains in the last decades, from civil wars to economic meltdown. Churches have been a refuge to many people, not just a place of prayer but of fellowship, as well.

Members trust their leaders so much they sometimes loose their values and moral standing and find themselves believing in nonsense stories. Congolese children are victims of those inappropriate ways of treatment. Kids were kidnapped and forced to serve in the army by the militias and government.

The poverty in Congo is portrayed as an attack by the devil on families. Even government authorities, who are educated people, have forgotten basic economic theories and allowed some church leaders to mistreat kids and referred to them as signs of woes to families and causes of sufferings and poverty.

Many children in Kinshasa, the capital of Congo, are kicked out by their families, live in the streets and public places and are called sorcerers because some pastors say they follow dark practices. More than half these children are between the age of four to 15. Organizations are trying to help, but the concern is that some churches are the ones allowing this separation in families.

Church is God’s entity and bears the mission of assembling people of God. Unfortunately, lately some people use the name of Jesus to steal from people and say God will bless if you sell your house and give your fortune to the church. Some pastors keep members in their churches for more than seven days of prayers and fasting and some couples even consider the idea of divorcing because pastors create conflict among them.

These pastors sometimes tell women to stay in churches for additional times of prayers, which may range for one to two weeks or even a month, and support women or men who rebel against their families and spouses. Those new churches in Congo are just not helping.

I will not forget the work of those early missionaries that came from Europe and the U.S.A. to Congo to introduce the gospel of Christ, whether in Catholic, Protestant or nondenominational churches. Their tremendous work is still bearing fruit and we do not see from them these kinds of deploring behavior toward members.

The big question is where the Congolese government stands in this abuse and exploitation of its people by some pastors. Our government is the most irresponsible government of the planet. Elected in 2006, president Kabila has not achieved any of the goals he sold to voters during the campaign. One example of his mismanagement is a deal with Chinese investors. On the surface it sounds fine, with the Chinese agreeing to build $6 billion worth of roads and railroads and another $3 billion in mining infrastructure in return for rights to operate the mines. But the project never started and Kabila’s core constituencies are now questioning it because his term will end in 2011.

Where is the country heading? Nobody can answer this question, while Kabila uses the tactics of his predecessors to intimidate and arrest those who will speak out. The least government leaders could do is protect those kids who are lost and have no support from their families, but instead they quietly observe those inhumane acts. Africa in general suffers from this belief in witchcraft and politicians all over the continent are looking for evils spirits to challenge their opponents.

How shall we overcome these challenges my country is going through? Can the world stand with Congolese children and show compassion by condemning those acts? Can humanitarian organizations go to Congo and see how kids are treated? Can we use God’s message to change people’s live and not to condemn or steal from those suffering already?

How are we representing God to those who do not know Him yet? I just ask for the world’s compassion to children of Congo.

Doug Kulungu is from Kinshasa, Congo’s capital, and hopes to work in the government when he returns.