Covenanters Reported Safe Amid Congo Violence

Post a Comment » Written on March 23rd, 2007     
Filed under: News
KINSHASA, CONGO (March 23, 2007) – Two Evangelical Covenant Church representatives were reported safe early this morning as violence continued to wreak havoc in the capital city following the government’s issuance of an arrest warrant for opposition leader Jean-Pierre Bemba.

Dr. Roger Thorpe, a retired Covenant medical missionary, and Curt Peterson, executive minister of the Department of World Mission, were reported safe following an unsuccessful attempt to catch a flight out of Kinshasa Thursday. They had traveled to Congo March 12 to participate in an all-country pastors conference, similar to the Midwinter Pastors Conference in the U.S., in partnership with the Covenant Church of Congo (CEUM).

Militiamen loyal to Bemba, who lost a presidential bid last year, have been fighting with the army in recent days following a period of relative calm.  One observer suggested that the violence may have escalated after Bemba was advised to reduce the number of guards protecting his compound. Bemba’s personal armed guard is believed to number some 200 men, according to a 2006 estimate from the United Nations (UN) mission in Congo. As a former vice-president in the transitional government, Bemba – who is now a senator – is entitled to 15 policemen for his protection.

The arrest warrant charges Bemba with treason, following a series of violent clashes, according to a British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) news report. Gun and mortar fire continued in the capital today, a day after at least 10 people died. Bemba reportedly has taken refuge in the South African Embassy.

Thorpe and Peterson traveled to the Kinshasa Airport Thursday, but passengers were not allowed to board their flight because of safety concerns, Covenant News Service was advised. The pair then attempted to seek refuge in a hotel, but when unable to reach that location due to fighting along the highways, they sought refuge in a compound considered to be a safe location.

Thorpe called his wife around 2:30 a.m. today, confirming that he and Peterson had reached a safe area. In a call three hours later, Thorpe asked his wife to immediately cancel his credit card as his wallet had been stolen. He also confirmed that they were successful in getting word to the U.S. Embassy regarding their plight, expecting to be evacuated at some point.

Later this morning, Peterson text messaged a collection of scriptures that he thought might be helpful to those praying for their safe return.

According to eyewitness reports at least seven civilians and three soldiers have been killed, but given the intensity of the fighting the final count could be much higher, BBC reports.

Earlier, UN peacekeepers evacuated more than 450 civilians from areas affected by the fighting to its Kinshasa headquarters using armored personnel carriers. Some 17,000 UN troops – the world’s largest peacekeeping force – are stationed in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“This obviously is cause for great concern,” said ECC President Glenn Palmberg upon learning the news. “We call on Covenanters everywhere to pray for the safe return of Roger and Curt, as well as the protection and safety for all of our brothers and sisters and the Congo church.”

More information will be posted to this online Covenant news report as it becomes available.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Report This Post

Leave a Reply

Report This Blog