If you found out you were helping fuel the bloodiest conflict since WWII, would you do something about it? Nearly 5.4 million people in the Democratic Republic of Congo have died since 1998 due to the consequences of war and we have something to do with it. Congo has been declared the worst place in the world for a woman to live where rape occurs on an unimaginable scale. This joined with endless violence and brutal forced labor makes eastern Congo not too far from hell on earth.
Living next-door to Congo, I frequently run into people who have fled Congo and relocated to Rwanda. Their voices are soft and their stories frequently describe the vast beauty of Congo coupled with its crippling violence. Their eyes reveal a different life filled with fighting, struggle and uncertainty. The atrocities of the Congo are beginning to be mentioned in America and voices are starting to speak up against the violence, but many are unaware of the conflict’s greatest catalyst and the strongest leverage we have to stop it.
Similar to blood diamonds, conflict minerals have been fueling the ongoing fighting in the Congo for many years now. Various rebel groups control most of eastern Congo where miners work long hours under extremely harsh conditions to mine the minerals tin, tantalum and tungsten. These minerals are then smuggled out of the country to neighboring countries and slip into the international market to be purchased by electronics companies. The earnings from these minerals are then used to purchase weapons for rebel groups to expand their territory and continue the bloodshed. You might be thinking, “I’ve never heard of these minerals, how do they affect me?” These minerals are essential to in the manufacturing of many electronic devices from cell phones to PlayStations to GPS units, and the Congo contains a majority of the world’s wealth of these minerals.
When I first learned about what was happening in the Congo, I was furious that the cell phone or GPS that I use could be helping rebel groups terrorize the children of God. By continuing to purchase these tainted electronic devices, we provide ammunition for these rebel groups to continue their terror over the region. As Christians, heck, as human beings, this brutality must be stopped. We are not only standing by silently, but we are contributing to the problem. Clearly, the problems in the Congo are complex and have been occurring for many years, but there are a few things we can do to stop the conflict in the Congo now.
I would like to suggest four things you can do right now to improve the lives of those living in eastern Congo. The first thing you can do is to pray about it. Pray that the God of redemption will restore Congo to the Eden it once was. Secondly, learn more. Don’t take my word for it; listen to the stories of the women living in Congo. I would suggest two documentaries, The Greatest Silence and Blood in the Mobile. I also learned a lot of information from the website RaiseHopeForCongo.org. The next thing you can do is take action. This does not mean boycotting electronics companies but calling or writing them to tell them it is unacceptable that they could be financing conflict in the Congo. Ask them to ensure the minerals they buy are not conflict minerals. I have found that many companies have already created some weak assurances on conflict minerals, but they need to trace their minerals origins and audit their supply chains to have any significance. The U.S. government is starting to get involved, and Congress has proposed the Conflict Minerals Act. Please call your representatives and ask them to support this legislation.
The last thing you can do is to tell your friends. Tell your friends about what is happening in the Congo. Ask them to contact the electronics companies and their Congress members to stop the flow of tainted electronics equipment from getting into consumers’ hands.
The people of the Congo are strong, courageous and filled with the fibers of God. By taking these relatively small steps, we can help improve the lives of those in the Congo. I know political action makes many feel uncomfortable, but please, at least pray about what you can do can do bring part of heaven to a place that looks a lot closer to hell. Let your heart and mind be open to what God might be creatively calling you to do for those in the Congo. God has given us many tools to bring about justice, let’s use them.