Africa

Nuts and Bolts

On a trip to Mali, Jock Brandis was asked by women he met in rural villages to send them a simple, cost-effective nut-sheller to aid their ground-nut business. It turned out that the “holy grail of sustainable agriculture” didn’t exist, so he built one. The Universal Nut Sheller costs $28 to make and has raised village incomes by an estimated 20 percent. Brandis’ organization, the Full Belly Project, has placed machines in 17 countries, created similar machines for other nuts, and trains folks to locally manufacture and distribute them.

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Sojourners Magazine April 2009
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Will Africa Say No to Nukes?

When two more African na­tions ratify the Pelindaba anti-nuclear weapons treaty, the globe’s Southern hemisphere will become a nuclear weapons-free zone. In March 2008, Mozambique unanimously ratified the treaty, and it is likely that Namibia and Zambia will follow suit in 2009. When that happens, Africa will join the other nuclear weapons-free zones of Latin America and the Caribbean, the South Pacific, South­east Asia, and Central Asia. “The global majority is sending a signal to the small minority in the north that it is possible to secure your defense without these abominable weapons,” Jonathan Frerichs, from the World Coun­cil of Churches, told Sojourners.

Nuclear weapon-free zones, said Mozambique’s foreign minister when introducing the ratification bill, “are one of the most effective means of preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons and promoting general and complete disarmament,” according to All­Africa news. No African countries have nuclear weapons. Under Nelson Mandela, South Africa became the only country to ever dismantle an existing nuclear weapons program.

The Pelindaba Treaty, unlike previous nonproliferation agree­ments, mandates that members dismantle and de­stroy any nuclear explosive device manufactured prior to the treaty coming into force. In addition, the treaty makes possible regulations on exporting uranium that require mining companies to certify the uranium for non-weapons use.

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Sojourners Magazine April 2009
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Our Sisters' Anguish

On the surface, there’s absolutely nothing linking the aging Jewish congregants at Temple Sholom in Floral Park, New York, to the abused and victimized women in Africa’s massive land called the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Yet, despite the miles that separate them, they are, in fact, related. “It’s all connected,” according to Rabbi Shelley Kovar Becker, who leads Temple Sholom. God has made us partners in repairing the world, she contends.

That’s why her congregation—along with other faith communities as diverse as Amistad United Church of Christ in Hartford, Connecticut, and Lincolnshire Church of the Brethren in Fort Wayne, Indiana—has signed the Congo Sabbath Initiative, an effort by the Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing to shed light on the violence being waged against women in Congo.

The initiative asks faith communities across religions and denominations to set aside a specific day before the end of April as “Congo Sabbath.” Congregations who sign on take active steps to educate their people about the atrocities taking place in the Congo. Offering prayers, reading articles, and raising money are all ways for people to get involved, said Rev. Debra W. Haffner, director of the Westport, Connecticut-based Religious Institute.

The violence taking place in the eastern DRC has roots in the Rwandan genocide more than a decade ago, which seeped over into bordering Congo. The Congolese army, militias, and rebels have battled over power and the land, which is rich in natural resources such as gold, copper, and tin.

Villages are left pillaged in the wake of the fighting, and women are raped as a way of inciting terror and fear. The sexual violence in the Congo is the worst in the world, according to the United Nations. In fact, one in two women there has been sexually victimized, often leaving them with HIV or internal injuries—or killing them outright.

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Sojourners Magazine April 2009
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