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Being Transformed to Transform
“Dreams can change the course of a country’s destiny. It’s time we dare to dream in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We must dare to think, dream, and then change our dreams into realities. This is why we’re here!”
That was the rallying cry of Dr. David Kasali, founder of Congo Initiative, on the first day of the 2015 Justice Conference, held during the second week of April. As I mentioned in the previous blog, between 2008 and 2013, three conferences were held in the town of Beni, in Eastern Congo, bringing Congolese lawyers from all over the region together for education, instruction, and encouragement. The foundation of the conference is faith and law, and how the two can be (and must be) inextricably bound together in order to fight corruption and exploitation within the country.
The theme of this year’s conference was, “A Clear Conscience for an Effective Justice,” and one lawyer put it so beautifully when he said, “For people to act rightly, they must have a clean conscience. They must act according to moral values. We must focus on moral formation, and when we do, we will see the difference in the coming generation.”
So what does it look like to be a Christian lawyer in the face of corruption? First of all, it means striving for and fighting for rule of law. I was so struck the other day while thinking about how violence and elections go hand in hand in most parts of the world. In America, we take such advantage of the relative peace in which we live. We may not agree with all of the laws, and many people protest (which is an excellent part of our right to free speech). But once the law is decided upon, regardless of whether or not you think it’s right, it’s still the law you must follow. In Congo, and in many other places around the world, the idea of rule of law simply does not exist.
There are two types of corruption. There is corruption because of greed and corruption because of necessity. There are those who are lining their pockets and exploiting the poor, while at the same time, the poor are stealing in one way or another because they don’t have enough to take care of their families. Something must be done to turn this accepted practice around, so that the violence that erupts out of it can be quelled.
So on the foundation of faith and law, which was being taught all week, this beautiful synergy flows directly from it. The key to being a Christian lawyer of excellence, morality, and character is not to just know the law, but to both follow and live the law. Our work is intertwined with who we are. We cannot simply leave our values at home and live a life of duplicity. I mean, we can, but our effectiveness and our ability to shape a nation will never amount to much of anything (anything to be proud of, anyway) if our work is not a reflection of our true selves, with high standards knit into the very essence of who we are.
In 2013, the idea of a law school within the walls of UCBC (The Bilingual Christian University of Congo) began to take shape, and that dream continues to become more and more of a reality each day. It will open in the very near future, and it has been incredible to see these Congolese lawyers from Eastern Congo unite around the project. There is a true ownership that is felt and the efforts of the three cities of Beni, Bunia, and Butembo will strengthen the ability of the university to train up new lawyers who will fight for justice and be a voice of Truth in the darkness.
In neighboring Uganda, similar universities cost approximately $1,500 per semester – by comparison, UCBC charges $500 per year. They are committed to radically sacrificing for the sake of the student, because they truly believe this generation has the ability to put the nation back on the right track, and make it one that is synonymous with peace and integrity.
I have spent much of the last three years traveling the world and spending time with different organizations, and few have inspired me as much as Congo Initiative has inspired me. I am encouraged by the indigenously led initiatives that are growing in this place, a place that has known so much violence and hatred for so long.
If you would like to be involved in making the dreams of Congo Initiative, UCBC, and the students on this campus come to life, I invite you to join with them with prayer and finances. They desperately need both, but are continuing to be obedient to their calling to move forward. Not only are they being obedient, but they are also living in delighted obedience, stepping out in faith.
Until next time,
About the Author: Sarah is a journalism fellow with World Next Door. She has her undergraduate degree in Business Communication from Azusa Pacific University in Southern California and is currently working on her Masters degree in Organizational Leadership. Sarah recently finished a two and a half year assignment working for an anti-trafficking NGO in Kathmandu, Nepal, where she had the opportunity to mentor and lead college students in ministry abroad. She is mildly obsessed with Jeopardy, coffee, running, and the Atlanta Falcons.