From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Volunteers Prepare for Zaire

Date 09 May 1996 16:12:50

"UNITED METHODIST DAILY NEWS" by SUSAN PEEK on Aug. 11, 1991 at 13:58 Eastern,

Note 2954 by UMNS on May 9, 1996 at 16:55 Eastern (3910 characters).

SEARCH: refugees, United Methodist, Zaire, Rwanda, Burundi,

  UMNS stories may be accessed on the Internet World Wide Web at: team to Zaire

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the United Methodist Church, with offices in Nashville, Tenn., New
York, and Washington.

CONTACT:  Linda Bloom                       240(10-21-31-71){2954}
          New York (212) 870-3803                      May 9, 1996

New United Methodist volunteers
prepare for refugee work in Zaire

                 by United Methodist News Service

     As reports of new killings in Burundi increase the flow of
refugees, another United Methodist Volunteers for Africa team is
preparing for work at refugee camps in neighboring Zaire.
     Richard Williams, a United Methodist Board of Global
Ministries consultant who organizes the Africa teams, said the
23rd group of volunteers is scheduled to leave June 1.
     The mission agency has been dispatching teams to assist
Rwandan and Burundian refugees in camps at Goma, Bukavu and Uvira
in Zaire since August, 1994. The most recent volunteers worked
there in March.
     Continued unrest in Burundi is complicating the mission work.
Reports of an April 26 massacre of more than 200 Hutus, mostly
women and children, in the village of Buhoro have surfaced. The
Tutsi-dominated military has been blamed for the deaths and a
senior U.S. human rights envoy was expected to arrive May 7 to
investigate, according to Reuters News Service.
     Now, according to Williams, "the borders have been closed
from the Zaire side and the Burundi side" to stem the flow of
refugees. The closure prohibits the volunteers from flying into
Bujumbura, Burundi's capital, and traveling by road to the Uvira
camp, as they have in the past.
     As of May 8, Williams also was trying to obtain an exemption
from a recent edict issued by the government of Zaire requiring
all foreigners entering the country to be processed through the
city of Kinshasa. That would add several extra days and
considerable expense for the teams, he explained.
     Through the United Methodist Bishops' Appeal and Campaign for
Africa -- issued on July 31, 1994 -- the Board of Global
Ministries has remained committed to its refugee work there,
despite occasional periods of increased tension and violence.
     From August to December 1995, as the Zaire government tried
to force refugees to return to their own countries, "we monitored
(the situation) very closely," Williams said.
     Precautions included the use of smaller work teams with more
experienced members. "We tried to get people who had done it
before, who we knew were cool-headed," he added.
     In the few instances when it has been considered too risky to
send in a team, "we always give them (volunteers) the option of
rescheduling for the next month."
     Currently, the situation in Burundi bears watching, according
to Williams. Because the civil war there has a more sporadic, low-
intensity level, the body count is not as readily apparent. "When
you look at it cumulatively, you have a lot of people being
killed," he said.
     The June team is composed of seven volunteers. The Methodist
Church of Kenya also sends up to three volunteers with a team,
such as home economists, nurses and dentists. The Kenyans help the
Western volunteers with language and understanding the culture.
"It's a perfect mix to have," Williams said.
     Donations to support the teams and other work in Africa can
be made to the Bishops' Appeal, UMCOR Advance No. 101275-4.      
     Information on volunteer teams is available by calling
Williams at (212) 870-3659. Medical personnel, teachers, social
workers, counselors and clergy are particularly needed.
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