Democratic Republic of Congo
On 21 August, a landslide decimated the fishing village of Tora in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Searchers had recovered more than 170 bodies from the rubble but the death toll is expected to reach over 200.
The United Methodist Church in East Congo Bishop Gabriel Unda asked for prayers for the victims and survivors in the province of Ituri, where the village is located.
“I also ask for a mobilization of the whole community as one body to assist these victims because their first refuge is us, the church,” he said.
The bishop said the conference had committed this year to planting churches throughout the province.
The village is home to about 50 families whose primary business is fishing. Oudo Manda, a local tax collector, said villagers heard unusual noises and thought they came from fishermen out on the lake at night. “Suddenly, we heard noises like gunshots, but it was actually big stones from the mountain that broke and collapsed on people’s houses and on merchants who spent the night outside,” he said.
The Rev. Chapel Lokalé, pastor of the church in nearby Mungwalu, said two traders who are members of the church are missing and asked for a prayer for them.
Mudslide and Flooding in Sierra Leone
On the 14th of August, the news of the devastating mudslides and disaster once again brought the attention of the world to Sierra Leone. In the last two decades the country has been hard-hit by the devastating effect of disasters occasioned by war, the Ebola crises, flooding, and now mudslides that have left more than five hundred people dead and hundreds more unaccounted for.
Along with news of the growing death-count, many are calling into question the irresponsible development and deforestation which has taken place in the country, and wonder whether the disaster could have been preventable. Umaru Fofana, a Sierra Leonean Journalist and Freetown resident stated that “most of Freetown’s forest cover, which used to capture the rainfall, has been tampered with…. If you hurt the environment, the environment will definitely fight back.”
Bishop John Yambusa of The Sierra Leone Episcopal Area of The United Methodist Church who also serves as the president of the Council of Churches in Sierra Leone (CCSL), issued a statement following the disaster. In it he said,
“We empathize with the thousands of people, including mainly women and children, who survived the disaster and now live under life threatening conditions with no place they could call home….We give thanks to God for those who survived the disaster and pray for the many others who lost their lives. As a nation, our most urgent responsibility now is to be in solidarity with the thousands of those who survived the disaster.”
Bishop Yambasu led an inter-denominational delegation to the area soon after the destruction took place, and said he had never been “so devastated.” He went on to say:
“Nobody seeing that would want to fold their hands and sit back without doing something. The amount of homes that were buried in that rubble … to know that I was really standing on top of human beings crushed by the landslide was most devastating for me.”
The West African Methodist Church in Sierra Leone WMC Council delegates, Mr. Nathaniel Williams and Rev. Donald Williams, responded that the church is working with the CCSL to determine how best to help victims of the disaster. Members of their congregations have been both directly and indirectly impacted, and support is appreciated.
World Methodist Council Urges Prayer, Action
The Methodist people through the World Methodist Council Social and International Affairs Committee reaches out to all Sierra Leoneans and Congolese in prayer at this critical crises situation.
We condole with families who have lost dear ones and commend the souls of those who lost their lives to the Almighty God.
We commend those young men and women using their bare hands to dig through the mud, earth and rock hoping to rescue those still alive and bring out the bodies of those dead.
We use this opportunity to call upon the governments and people of Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo to engage in responsible existence and living where the integrity of creation and the environment is preserved.
We call again on the governments and people of Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo to constructively engage in preventing measures and appeal to the international community to assist in overcoming these regrettable episodes of disaster and devastation of lives and properties.
May the Lord God Almighty grant them all consolation at this challenging and trying time.
World Methodist Council Social and International Affairs Committee
West African Methodist Church
Sierra Leone Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church
Phileas Jusu UMNS www.umc.org
Judith Yanga UMNS www.umc.org
Umaru Fofana BBC www.bbc.com/news