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By Philippe Lolonga March 9, 2021/Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo

United Methodist women in Eastern DRCongo gathered to celebrate International Women’s Day (March 8) in many ways—most importantly, in continued prayer for a restoration of lasting peace in Congo. In wartime, women endure violence that affects almost every aspect of their lives.

Mother Anunga Beatrice, an advocate for women’s rights who overcame childhood poverty, told the gathering that women in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have been raped or killed by armed men. Anunga, the coordinator of United Methodist Women in the church’s Kivu Annual Conference, encourages all women to overcome their fear and denounce any case of violence against women’s rights in their areas.

“If we keep silent, we will always be victims of several atrocities and violations of our rights,” Anunga said.

Mother Marie Claire Unda, the supervisor of Mama Lynn Center in Kindu, DRC, calls on all United Methodist Women in Eastern Congo to become self-reliant. Without independent sources of income, women are vulnerable to losing their rights and wellbeing.

Unda initiated several activities in various United Methodist districts in East Congo that help women support themselves. Among them are microgrants that enable vulnerable women and women pastors to participate in an agricultural project that helps them to earn their own living.

In her medical work, Unda encourages more than twenty women who are living with HIV/AIDS in Bukavu. She pursues funding to help these women obtain transportation as well as medication. 

During the celebration, Adalbert Tshomba, the lay chief of the Kivu Conference, said: “On this memorable day dedicated to women, I offer my sincere congratulations and encouragement to Mother Marie Claire Unda, spouse of our bishop, for her particular courage and dedication in the philosophical works of the church and the awakening of consciousness of women. I dedicate this March 8, 2021, to you with all my heart. May God bless you and, as he is merciful, may he forgive your sins and accompany you more.”

Mother Mbilizi Bibiche, who is president of United Methodist Women in Bukavu, teaches women in that town to embrace their personhood and refuse to tolerate being let down or minimized. At the gathering, she urged women to work hard to fight all forms of sexual violence.

Bishop Gabriel Unda of Eastern Congo encouraged United Methodist women to move forward, for they have life-saving power, he said. 

Philippe Lolonga is Harper Hill Global’s correspondent in Kivu.

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