Jeremiah in the Democratic Republic of Congo

by Isobel Stevenson, Langham Literature

The UN recently stated that the killings in the eastern Congo (DRC) may be crimes against humanity. Yet most of us know very little about them. We are not aware that some five million people have died there in the past ten years, directly and indirectly because of the wars that plague the region. But it is no surprise for Dr Bungishabaku Katho, the principal of Shalom University of Bunia in the DRC. He and the university and its graduates are working hard to promote peace and reconciliation. Not only do they minister in churches, they also minister in prisons and among the thousands of UN troops in the region, many from Bangladesh, Morocco and Pakistan.

Dr Bungishabaku Katho, Principal of Shalom University of Bunia,
Democratic Republic of Congo

I received an e-mail from him, saying ‘I am too busy these days, working with politicians to see whether we can avoid wars in our District.’ Yet at the same time, in addition to his peace-keeping work and his duties at the university, he is completing a commentary on Jeremiah for the African Bible Commentary Series. Looking at his country, he says, ‘I am not sure about the future, but God is in control and this is just like the book of Jeremiah.’ His commentary reflects his lived experience, and not merely a theoretical understanding of what it is like to see a loved homeland ravaged by war and by the pride and arrogance of leaders, warlords and merchants who put personal profit above the needs of the poor. It will speak to many in Africa and around the world.

Dr Katho is writing in French. His commentary is being translated into English by the same young woman who translated the earlier commentary on Romans. It is a joy to see how she has grown as a translator. But there may be some delays in the near future, for she is expecting her first child. Pray that she will be preserved in childbirth – Niger does not have the greatest medical facilities in the world. Pray, too, that she will be able to continue to make her unique contribution to this book.

As we sit in safety, it is humbling to realise how much is being done for God’s kingdom by people who have far fewer resources and face far greater problems than we do. Our task is to support them in prayer and materially so that they can continue their ministries without suffering hunger, and can have resources to share with those around them.

Here’s an extract from the commentary on Jeremiah 1: 6, where Jeremiah protests he is too young to be a prophet.

‘Jeremiah’s situation reminds me my own experience shortly after I completed my doctoral studies. War had broken out in our region, and so the board of the college … met some distance away in village in Uganda. Very few of the board members knew me. However, the principal of the college was adamant that I should take over from him as he was resigning due to health problems. The board agreed, and I was appointed to the position. Later that week, I met one of the board members and was introduced as the new principal they had just appointed. He was shocked, and cried out in Lingala, Tobebisi mosala, Nzambe! (“Oh God! We have destroyed your work!”). He thought I was too young and inexperienced to lead such a large college. He had forgotten that God calls young people and equips them for ministry just as he did Jeremiah and later Timothy (1 Tim 4:12).’

Related Publication

Book Cover

Jeremiah and Lamentations

Africa Bible Commentary Series

by Robert Bungishabaku Katho

Publisher: Hippo Books

Available: late 2013

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