Congo Mission Network creates synergy in faith-based advocacy
by Douglas Tilton and Jeff Boyd | Mission Crossroads
Speak out for those who cannot speak, for the rights of all the destitute. Speak out, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy. (Proverbs 31:8–9)
LOUISVILLE — In early October 2018, two dozen members of the Congo Mission Network (CMN) converged on Washington, D.C., to advocate for U.S. support for democracy in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The gathering, which preceded the annual CMN meeting, sought to raise the DRC’s profile prior to presidential elections in that country on Dec. 30. The CMN members sought U.S. assistance to strengthen democratic institutions in the Congo and to avert a humanitarian disaster by mobilizing resources to assist parts of the DRC that have been affected by corruption, conflict and natural disasters.
The Congo Mission Network brings together representatives of congregations, presbyteries and other PC(USA) entities, as well as concerned individuals, to promote communication and coordination among those with partnerships in the DRC, and to strengthen the church in the United States and the Congo.
Network members have long seen advocacy as an essential component of their calling to work for justice and peace in the DRC. In this respect, the network is building on a tradition that reaches back more than 125 years to early Presbyterian missionaries the Rev. Dr. William H. Sheppard and his wife, Lucy Gantt Sheppard, and William McCutchan Morrison, who worked to expose King Leopold II’s exploitation of rubber harvesters in the late 19th century. On a trip to the U.S. in 1905, William Sheppard went to the White House to brief President Theodore Roosevelt, and soon the U.S. Senate resolved to end the atrocities in the Congo.
Last fall the Congo Advocacy Day participants met with staff members in 18 congressional offices, including those of the Democratic and Republican leadership of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. They asked congressional representatives to expedite the passage of HR 6207, the DRC Democracy and Accountability Act, and urged senators to adopt companion legislation. They also encouraged members of Congress to ensure that U.S. and United Nations agencies receive the funds necessary to provide electoral support and to respond to urgent humanitarian needs. Advocates also met with Rory Anderson, a policy adviser in the Secretary’s Office of Religion and Global Affairs at the U.S. State Department.
CMN members have been advocates within the church, too. The network has put forward a number of overtures to the General Assembly over the past decade, most recently in 2016, to clarify the PC(USA)’s commitment to fair elections, term limits, human rights, and electoral and civic education.
Members of the advocacy team received consistently warm receptions in the offices they visited. Most staffers affirmed the value of raising points of concern with members of Congress. CMN advocates were pleased to encounter several staff members with extensive knowledge of the DRC and one who had interned with the PC(USA) Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy as a Young Adult Volunteer. The CMN team benefited greatly from the expertise and assistance provided by the PC(USA)’s Office of Public Witness in Washington, D.C. Catherine Gordon, the representative for international issues in the Office of Public Witness, helped to secure appointments with U.S. State Department and congressional offices, and accompanied members of the team to a number of offices.
Douglas Tilton is World Mission’s regional liaison for Southern Africa and Madagascar.
Jeff Boyd is World Mission’s regional liaison for Central Africa.
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Learn more about the Congo Mission Network at congopartners.org. Find out more about other mission/ partnership networks: pcusa.org/missionnetworks
This article is from the Spring 2019 issue of “Mission Crossroads” magazine, which is printed and mailed free to subscribers within the U.S. three times a year by Presbyterian World Mission and also available online at pcusa.org/MissionCrossroads.
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