COVID-19 has changed our lives and most of us are hunkered down at home, trying to stay safe and help others stay healthy.
But some things have not changed – in fact, they’ve got worse and now a New Westminster pastor and Coquitlam resident is calling on everyone he knows to help shine a spotlight on the plight of his relatives and friends, members of the Banyamalenge tribe living in the Great Lakes Region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Bishop Mutabazi Shadrack, pastor at the Shalom Christian Outreach Church in New Westminster, says he received a call on April 21 warning him that 4,000 soldiers and militia were en route to pursue a genocide against his people if they don’t leave their villages immediately.
The Banyamalenge are a sub-sect of the Tutsi, a people already massacred in Rwanda, and frequently at odds with the Hutu majorities in surrounding countries. They also happen to live on land rich in resources and have been told that as they originally moved south from Egypt and Ethiopia — 300 to 400 years ago — they must return there or face the consequences.
The situation in the DRC and surrounding countries is a continuing saga of violence, torture and death and extremely challenging to understand, with blame aplenty to go around. However, since November, the Banyamalenge have been threatened, attacked, had their villages burned, their women raped and their men killed. They have nowhere to go — and the COVID-19 crisis means their enemies can act with impunity as all eyes are on the pandemic and most aid and human rights groups have withdrawn their staff from conflict zones.
Bishop Shadrack spends his days monitoring the situation in his homeland, working towards peace and reconciliation and was heartened when earlier this year various groups in the region signed a commitment to ensure a peaceful resolution. However, it was a signatory to the agreement who called Shadrack on April 21 alerting him to what he fears is an impending slaughter.
As members of Tri-Cities Amnesty International, we call upon Global Affairs Canada to exert its influence in pressing authorities in the DRC to more effectively protect civilians, including protection from militias and state aggression, and for justice in terms of ending impunity and bringing perpetrators to justice.
Hazel Postma and Joy Silver, on behalf of Tri-Cities Amnesty International Group 176