Levels of Violence Vary in Different Mission Areas

Post a Comment » Written on January 24th, 2007     
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OAXACA, MEXICO (January 24, 2007) – Missionaries forced from this region of Mexico will be returning soon, now that a sense of peace has been restored, says Wendy Mark, who with her husband, David, serve as regional coordinators for Latin America for the Department of World Mission of the Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC).

Political conditions also continue to improve in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but violence continues to have an impact on Covenant work in Sudan and the Central African Republic, denominational leaders say.


JoEllen Reaves is scheduled to return to Oaxaca next week. Hoover must complete medical treatment she has been undergoing before she can return from Florida.

The missionaries left Oaxaca in early November amid violence that shook the region and escalated faster than anyone had expected. Federal police clashed with protestors who demanded political change. At the time they evacuated, Hoover wrote, “As we were leaving, there were several fires going on in the outskirts of our neighborhood, unknown young men with masks were roaming in our neighborhood with clubs, rocks, and Molotov cocktails, and riot police were marching down the walkway on the edge of our neighborhood.”

“While the causes for the conflict in Oaxaca have not been totally resolved, some sense of peace has been restored,” Mark says. “The city of Oaxaca is cleaning up from tire fires, protest marches, graffiti, and other damage. Businesses are being reopened and children are back in school.” Tourists also have started returning.

“There is no expectation that things will heat up again,” Mark says, but adds that time will be needed for people to recuperate from the loss of their income and the general disruption of their lives.


Pete Ekstrand, regional coordinator for Africa, says the political situation and overall security have greatly improved since the presidential runoff elections in October. Violence between backers of the two presidential candidates had threatened to tear apart the country once again.

Incumbent President Joseph Kabila and his opponent, Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba, have worked together (since the election) to encourage peace, says Covenant missionary Bob Thornbloom.

Leaders of the Evangelical Covenant Church of Congo (CEUM) are optimistic about the future, says Ekstrand. “Without question, they said that the tension level is down and that people want to move forward to rebuild. People now can move around without fear of violence.”

Violence continues to affect ministry in other parts of Africa, however.


In Sudan, residents of Malakal are recovering from a week of attacks involving rival government military groups in early December. The main offices of the Evangelical Covenant Church of Sudan are located in the city.

The homes of many church members were destroyed in the fighting. The denomination has submitted a request to Covenant World Relief (CWR) for funding to help rebuild and repair houses, says CWR director Jim Sundholm.

Short-term missionary James Tang was in Bentiu, Sudan, when the fighting erupted, but traveled to Malakal after the violence and conducted worship services with Covenanters, Sundholm says.

Progress continues on construction of a new school in Bentiu that is being paid for with money raised by high school students during CHIC 2006. Difficulty getting goods transported into the area have slowed the work, but Sundholm hopes the situation will improve in the coming months.

Meanwhile, a temporary kitchen and toilets have been installed at the current school, which have enabled it to receive grants from the United Nations World Food Bank, Sundholm says.


In the Central African Republic (CAR), bandits recently robbed and killed six men with whom Roy Danforth had been working in a northeastern section of the country, says Jim Hocking whose organization, Integrated Community Development International, partners with the Covenant there.

Although Roy and Aleta Danforth live in another part of the country that hasn’t been as affected by the violence, they have worked in the northeastern region with agricultural and water projects. They were not in the region when the killings occurred.

Bandits roam freely in groups of 15 to 50 in the war-ravaged nation, but rarely kill their victims, says Hocking. He doesn’t know what might have happened to lead to the killings of the men, who were returning from a celebration when they were ambushed.

“The government is powerless to stop the bandits,” says Hocking, who has been robbed twice. The country has no real working economy, schools or hospitals, he explains. The bandits primarily want money and are not interested in rebelling against the government.

Most of the activity has been taking place in the northeastern area of CAR. Covenant missionaries are located in other parts of the country. The Danforths and Ron and Janet Ziegelbaur are in the southwest, while Karen Benson works in Bangui.

The ECC Department of World Mission has been monitoring the situation. Executive Minister Curt Peterson says the missionaries will be moved out those areas, if the situation warrants.

To read an earlier story about Danforth and the mission work, please see CAR Mission.

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