UK Anglican election observer invited to Congo by Mennonites
John Hennings, an Anglican friar from Dorchester in England, has visited the Democratic Republic of Congo for a week as the first of 20 international election observers invited by Mennonite Central Committee, writes Tim Shenk for MCC.
Congo is preparing to hold democratic elections for the first time in 46 years, and MCC is supporting Congolese churches in educating their members and their communities about the voting process.
As previously reported on Ekklesia, Mennonite Central Committee is working with the Church of Christ in Congo, which is a national council of churches, and with Congo's three Mennonite denominations: Community of Mennonite Brethren Churches in Congo, Evangelical Mennonite Community and Mennonite Community in Congo.
As part of this effort, MCC is helping to coordinate the visits of 20 election observers from the United States, Canada, Indonesia, England, Denmark, the Netherlands and the Central African Republic. Most are planning to be present on election day, which has been postponed several times and is currently scheduled for July 30.
Hennings spent the week in Kinshasa, Congo's capital, and assisted in a project to organize Congolese people to serve as local election observers. He met with several church groups and preached at an Anglican church in the city.
Suzanne Lind, an MCC country representative in Kinshasa, says that the presence of international election observers is encouraging to Congolese Christians, many of whom are participating in the political process for the first time.
"They're seeing that it's a good thing to vote, it's OK to be interested in the political process, and it's important to look at your government with an expectation for honesty," Lind says.
Many Congolese hope that the election will begin a new era for their country after the corrupt dictatorship of Mobutu Sese Seko from 1965 to 1997 and the five-year civil war that followed.
Mennonite Central Committee is a North American inter-Mennonite relief and development agency. Mennonites are one of the historic peace churches with their roots in the radical Reformation in Europe.