“There is no way to peace along the way to safety. For peace must be dared. It is the great venture.” — German pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945)
In Goma, the epicenter of Congo mayhem, where corruption and poverty thrive, Fidel Bafilemba embodies the courage to challenge the norm of his home country.
“That’s me—the disorder of this country, but also the hope for a better future. A hope for an educated people. That’s me. Fidel Bafilemba, activist.”
Working for peace in his hometown has been a journey of transformation—Fidel is a militia member turned peace activist. In the midst of chaos, Fidel manifests hope—a hope for a better future where he, his family, and his community can make self-determined decisions for prosperity and reconciliation.
His struggle is to bring to fruition God’s “kingdom come,” even amid the mayhem of his environment, “for the kingdom of God depends not on talk but on power.” (1 Cor. 4:20).
When others see destruction, poverty, and war, Fidel envisions the future of his people. It is a future of a Congo lush with natural resources and beauty that benefits, rather than destroys, communities. That’s why Fidel refuses to accept impunity and injustice, and seeks to empower others to question and ask, “why?”
“Why don’t we have roads? Why don’t we have education? Why don’t we have, why don’t we have?”
Through Fidel’s example, it is evident that this shift away from accepting injustice toward a more hopeful perspective is not only crucial in seeking change for his family and community, but also the rest of Congo.
“So our transformation must begin with the renewal of our minds. And that is what the Christian story is about—offering a fresh lens through which to see ourselves, others, and the world. In the process, Christianity is meant to shape a new identity within us by creating a new sense of we—a new community that defies our usual categories of anthropology.” — Emmanuel M. Katongole (with Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove), The Pattern of this World
Watch Fidel’s video.
1. Discuss how Fidel’s story reflects the causes of “Congo’s mayhem.”
2. Fidel is creating an activist movement for peace in his country, which began with his own personal transformation. Can you relate to Fidel’s personal journey, and how?
3. What does it mean to be a self-determined community and what are the challenges to creating a self-determined community?
God of peace, we pray for the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo amid violence. Give those working for positive change courage, and comfort all those who are fearful or in mourning. Amen.
More about Fidel
Fidel Bafilemba lives in Goma and works as a field researcher for the Enough Project. He has a long history of working in human rights and education, as well as extensive experience as a translator and “fixer” for western journalists. Before joining Enough, Fidel worked in upper management with the International Rescue Committee in Goma, leading emergency programs implementation in the field to provide aid to Congolese citizens in war-torn parts of the eastern Congo. He speaks 13 languages.
In a short blog post about “I Am Congo,” Fidel reflects on where he has come from, the path he has chosen, and the message he feels is most important to share with the world.
Referring to his past life in a militia group, he says, “But that past is far behind me now, and today is a new day. My hope is that my children will grow up in a Congo that allows and even encourages every citizen to think independently—to challenge the status quo of taking up arms for power. To me, this video has provided an opportunity to convey the importance of a common denominator uniting all citizens of the world—one that leads to progress and one that eastern Congo largely lacks—an education system that promotes critical thinking.”