Pastor Appeals for Prayers Amid 'Dire' Situation in Congo

The head of a development charity in the Democratic Republic of Congo has appealed for prayers as a government crackdown on rebel forces threatens to jeopardize peace and stability in the eastern area of the country.

Pastor Ruben Kinyama, director of ARM Congo, said the crackdown has led to an influx of Hutu refugees into the largely ethnic Tutsi district of Marungu, which he and his agricultural team have been trying to enter for the past week but have been prevented from doing so by the volatile security situation.

The situation looks "dire," Kinyama stated in a report to ARM Congo's partner, World Emergency Relief, some time Thursday night.

"There have been reports of fighting in the south and some minor skirmishes in the surrounding area. But things have escalated quite dramatically in the last two days," he added.

According to Kinyama, no one is currently able to travel, the entire area is under a security alert and local security forces have pulled out so as to avoid engaging with Interhamwe rebels or joining DR Congo government forces.

The Congolese pastor said he was particularly worried about the safety of children and staff at ARM homes and orphanages in the area, noting that he and his team have not been able to contact them since the crackdown began.

"I am particularly worried as the Interhamwe rebels are now moving into the Marungu town along with their families, and the government army is in pursuit," he reported.

"Many of the surrounding villages are evacuating and are moving in to Marungu town as well," Kinyama continued, adding that the town is remote and extremely poor. "The local community can barely support itself so this influx, combined with fighting, could be disastrous."

After reporting on the heavy fighting near a Red Cross clinic, and the emergence of "heavy guns" in one town, Kinyama called for prayers for the people stuck in Marungu.

"Please do everything you can to let people know about the situation here. God willing, someone that reads this can help," he added.

WER, which made public Kinyama's report on Friday, has appealed for donations to send food and medicine and to build a resettlement fund.

The U.K-based agency is also rallying supporters to contact their local government officials to apply more pressure on the Congolese government to resolve the situation peacefully.

The organization says it has been working with ARM in Burundi and Pastor Kinyama for 14 years. During this time, hundreds of children have been reportedly been rescued from refugee camps, conflicts and from exploitation.