When I went to hear a staged reading of Lynn Nottage's play "Ruined," about the price of the ongoing war in Congo, last week, I had a stronger than usual motive to be sure to turn off my cell phone. The normal reason applied, of course: I didn't want to miss a word of the play, which author Lynn Nottage wrote inspired by interviews she did with Congolese women in refugee camps in Uganda.
But the main reason was that, knowing that my cell phone might well contain conflict minerals -- meaning that my payment to T-Mobile might be helping to fund the armed groups who are using rape as a routine weapon of war -- I felt like the thing was a lead weight in my pocket. When I heard courageous Congolese journalist ChouChou Namegabe speak afterwards, it just got heavier.
Right now, when corporations buy Congolese tin, tantalum, and tungsten for use in consumer electronics, there's a one-step process to see if they are funding killing and rape: they just take sellers' word for it. Unsurprisingly, this does not work. The Enough Project has just put up a slideshow showing the six degrees of separation between the war zone and your cell phone, video game, or laptop. Check it out today -- or just go directly to Raise Hope for Congo, where you can email the largest electronics corporations and tell them they can do better. It just might be the most important cell phone message you send for some time.
Elizabeth Palmberg is an assistant editor of Sojourners.