Journalist and others are using the term “failed state” to designate a country which has lost control of all or part of its territory. When a state is unable to control its territory, then armed gangs and rebel movements often take over. The economic decline in Congo and the conflicts which happened between 1996 and 2002, but which are still continuing in some limited parts of the country, created a situation where the LRA could move in and create havoc. There was no effective armed forces or police force to stop them.
As Christianity grows around the world and especially in Africa, more and more Christians live in countries which do not provide them with adequate security. More and more are being harassed by rebel groups, armed gangs, organized crime syndicates or even rogue elements of their own police and military. Martyrdom has received some needed attention in recent years. What has not yet been noticed by many is that the number of Christians around the world subjected to criminal or rebel violence is multiple times greater than those persecuted for their faith.
Our situation mirrors that. It is highly unlikely that we will be detained, harassed or killed for our faith. It is much more likely that we will be the victims of criminal violence or be harassed by elements of the police or military who do not respect human rights. I am not an expert, but that is probably true of most missionaries in the world today.
Effects on Bible translation
The LRA attacks have not yet had many direct effects on our work. We have had to delay a few activities and move a few others to safer places. As you can see from the map, the area where the LRA is carrying out attacks is not that far from one of the main centers of our work, Isiro. In addition, there is a camp for displaced persons there. Isiro is not under threat.
The churches we work with have been heavily affected. Pastors have been driving from their homes was well as tens of thousands of church members. As you can imagine, finding ways to assist them is a priority for the other members of those churches and their church leaders. Bible translation is understandably and rightly being sidelined for the moment in their priorities.
What can you do?
First, you can pray. Ask the Lord to protect his people. Ask him to thwart the plans of those who do harm. If you want to do something concrete, I suggest that you consider Samaritan’s Purse whose leader, Franklin Graham, highlighted the LRA threat to the Zande people in a recent letter which you can see at http://www.samaritanspurse.org/index.php/Newsletter/june_2009/. We are in the process of selecting Zande who will serve as Bible translators and that process has been slowed and made more expensive by the LRA attacks.
More about the LRA
The LRA (stands for Lord’s Resistance Army) is a rebel group which started in Northern Uganda. Its leader, Joseph Kony, says that he wants to set up a government based on the ten commandments. But his actions are far from those advocated by the Bible. The LRA conducted a twenty year reign of terror in northern Uganda, pillaging and abducting tens of thousands of children who they force into service. They were driven out of Uganda a few years back and have taken refuge in northeastern Congo. They have also attacked villages and towns in Sudan and the Central African Republic. For more information see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LRA.
(This was first posted on another site. It was republished here in March 2012.)