To fulfill a mission to deepen relationships with international partners, Global Ministries — a joint ministry of the United Church of Christ and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) — will begin a "Congo Initiative" this summer. The project focuses attention and resources for a least a year on mission work in a region of Africa stricken by human rights violations, mass genocide, and millions of preventable deaths.
"Over the next 12 to 18 months we will focus on educational and advocacy efforts in the Congo which, over the past 15 or so years, has been the location of some of the worst violence and human rights abuses anywhere," said the Rev. James A. Moos, executive minister for the UCC's Wider Church Ministries. The plan was announced during the Global Ministries board meeting from April 18-20 in Indianapolis.
Global Ministries has always worked with wide breadth of partners in global advocacy, Moos said. But to be intentional about focusing mission work in areas that go unnoticed, GM and its partners will work to improve opportunities around education, advocacy, relief aid, and worship. Visits to the country are also being planned, with Moos and the Rev. Julia Brown Karimu, president of the DoC's Division of Overseas, traveling with area executives to the Congo in February.
There is not accurate number as to how many people have been killed there. Estimates range close to 5 million people — with some counts as high as 20 million — lost mostly to treatable diseases because the country lacks the medical infrastructure to handle them. Most of the conflict has been around the control of minerals, such as diamonds, coal, copper and coltan, which is used in the fabrication of electronic components in computers and mobile phones. The situation has received little mainstream media attention from the United States and Western Europe.
Moos said the announcement of the plan was well-received by those in attendance. "We'll kick off at General Synod for one-and-a-half years," he added. At the conclusion of the Congo initiative, Global Ministries will rotate to a new, undetermined location for mission work.
As to other business of the Global Ministries board, the group adopted a change to its rules and will begin moving to a smaller governing board, reducing its size by 10 members, from 56 to 46.
As the board downsizes, the new structure will have five fewer UCC and five fewer Disciples of Christ representatives. There are currently 20 UCC and 20 Disciples of Christ representatives to the board, and six overseas representatives. The new Global Ministries Board of Directors should be in place by the next meeting in November.
Although the change is happening in conjunction with the UCC's move from several boards of directors to a single board of governance, Moos said the changes in the UCC are not the sole reason for the reduction of GM board members.
"We've known governance changes are coming to the UCC, and we recognize that this [Global Ministries Board] is a large, large board," Moos said.
Today, Global Ministries is involved in mission, relief, development and justice work in 14 countries in Africa. Read more on the Global Ministries website.