Community Builder and Footballer: Amani Matabaro | Sojourners

Community Builder and Footballer: Amani Matabaro

“Ultimately, we have just one moral duty: to reclaim large areas of peace in ourselves, more and more peace, and to reflect it toward others. And the more peace there is in us, the more peace there will also be in our troubled world.” –  Etty Hillesum, Dutch diarist who died at Auschwitz

The social fabric that wove together Amani’s moral values and passion for peace is the target of rebel groups that destabilize and destroy communities. Amani grew up playing football and attending school and church in an area that has been chronically unstable for the past 16 years.

Despite the threat, Amani learned within his local structures the power of community in overcoming insecurity—the hub for gaining moral and intellectual values “to make every effort to come together and live as a community.”

Congo is still suffering from the overspill of the Rwandan genocide, the aftermath of which took the lives of both of Amani’s parents. Rebel groups roam the Kivu provinces of eastern Congo and seek to unravel the very social fabric of Amani’s community.

Taking heart from the moral lessons he gained from playing football with his school and through his education, Amani decided to overcome the insecurity caused but he rebels by bringing people together by providing a peace market—a community nucleus for women, children, and men to gather in a safe, empowered, and peaceful environment to care for one another.

As 1 Corinthians explains, God created us as one body, “that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.”

Amani views those assembled at the peace market as this body. His story is one of establishing peaceful community structures.

Watch Amani's video.

Discussion questions

1. Children, schools, and women are foundational to the social fabric of community. What motivates rebel groups to make these their targets?

2. How do you think instability in schools affects community development and growth?

3. What are the ways that Amani has worked to bring peace to his community? What are the connections or parallels to your own community?


Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is despair, let me sow hope. Where there is darkness, light. Where there is sadness, joy. Amen. — Prayer of St. Francis. 

More about Amani

Amani is a part-time field researcher for the Enough Project. He is also a community builder and the executive director of Action Kivu,  a Congolese nonprofit organization that works to empower war-affected women and children through implementing community-based projects and sponsoring education for vulnerable children. One of his signature projects at Action Kivu is an eight-month sewing program for vulnerable communities, where women learn to sew, knit, and embroider, and eventually acquire the skills and capacity to work on their own as seamstresses.

Amani, who speaks eight languages, is a man of action deeply committed to improving the lives of others. Rather than implementing his own vision upon the community, he does his research among the people, talking to them, taking surveys, learning about what the majority of them want before implementing projects.