We don’t know each other. I could never understand all that you’ve been through, or all the weight that you currently carry as leader of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. You and I have both made mistakes. Because of your position and influence, when you make a mistake, its’ impact is large. But we are both fallible. Our strength comes not as we deny this, but as we humble ourselves and accept help/guidance from others. As Desmond Tutu said,
“..You can’t exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can’t be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality – Ubuntu – you are known for your generosity. We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole World. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity.”
I’ll be honest, I have a selfish motivation even in writing to you. My family is pursuing an adoption of a child from the DRC that began years ago. We would love to bring her home. But even as I write this, there are families who are responding to your country and your authority with disrespect and malice. I want to apologize for their actions and their words. In regards to international adoption, we must not sacrifice the future protection of children and sustainable family-life for immediate homecomings of those being processed. I understand that you and many others would be upset by what seems to be a lack of respect. It seems many are more interested in forcing or coercing your hand to “bring home” children, rather than offer whatever assistance/wisdom we can toward reforming the systems in place for taking care of the future generations of Congolese. The “best case scenario” is not to figure out how to do adoptions well. The “best case scenario” involves healing the land, people, and systems so that the DRC can flourish and be the beautiful nation and people it has the potential to be.
I know you have a lot on your plate. Even as great things are accomplished for women’s rights in the Senate and your soccer team is competing, MONUSCO looks toward new action against the FDLR. The conflict that continues in Eastern Congo is only a small part of the struggle your people have faced for over half a century, and even longer. As so many in the world have valued their own desires, and sought to fill their own bank accounts and resources, the people of your nation were not only trampled on and stolen from, but they were learning a way of existence. The way of existence that declares, “I look out for myself, no one else.” Generations have come and built lives on this approach, and so there has been war, rape, murder, and worse. Children are not allowed to be children, as parents are forced to sacrifice them to survive. When children cannot trust their parents, there cannot be family. When “family” is lost, so too are communities and eventually, nations.
I don’t speak all of these things from a nation that “has it all correct”. As you have probably seen, the United States has its’ own struggles. We too have built on generations declaring “I look out for myself, no one else.” Our conflict may not be as visible, but it is having an impact on “family”, and therefore also, our nation. From what I’ve read, you believe in Jesus Christ and in the Bible as the Word of God. I’m appealing to you, therefore, not as someone who has much to offer you. But as a brother in Christ.
Christ calls us to humble ourselves, to admit our faults and seek redemption. As I began my letter I pointed out that when you make a mistake, the impact is large because of your power and position. The opposite can also be true! When you humble yourself and seek the redemption of what God intends for you and for your nation – it has incredible potential to transform the world both now and for the future!! You’re in a unique position right now to bring reform, and not only speak words but put into action, plans and resources to transform and protect the future children of the DRC. Imagine a future where your daughter, Sifa, whose name means “reputation/praise”, can proudly share who her father was, and point out the legacy you helped leave behind. That even though you made mistakes when you were young and seeking power in a country where everyone was doing the same thing – you came to a point where you realized those errors, and were transformed. That is the Good news of the Gospel message. Lives like yours and mine, Jesus came to bring freedom from our sin, and redemption/new life through us for the sake of the world!
I know many voices are calling simply for you to “open the doors” and allow adopted children to go home. As beautiful as that would be for so many families, it would also land your nation right where it was when this all began. There is corruption, and changes need to happen. You’ve already stated that publicly, but nothing concrete has been seen yet. I encourage you, to put together a team to examine and reform the adoption process in the DRC. Invite leaders from several nations where families are thriving, and figure out a long-term plan for the future of your people in the context of a global community. Figure out what investments are being made in the economy of your nation, and what those investors are seeking to gain. You have hundreds of families from all over the world, waiting to be forever connected with the DRC through their children! What a great resource to tap into, and to invite into life-long relationships with! As the country eventually opens, invite these parents to stay connected, and encourage partnerships with the local communities their children are adopted from. Help develop structures and accountability so that such partnerships remain healthy and not yet another “I’ll get mine” enterprise. Set a goal, not of simply serving the orphaned of today, but of healing the families and communities of your nation so that if and when orphans exist – the community and resources are there to provide homes and families for those children.
Allow your people to experience the beginning of needed healing, by publicly declaring you will not alter the constitution or seek another term in office. Your country needs more than you, and more than any individual leader has to offer. Lead them into an existence that declares “Ubuntu” once again. Help them find a leader who can guide them into this next season of healing and redemption of family.
And someday, when you’re no longer carrying the weight and responsibility you carry, and you have some free time, I’d love to meet you. To have my daughters meet yours. To have our wives drink tea together. To sing together, a song of worship to the God who offers to transform us both for the sake of a world that needs us to bear His image.
Thanks for your time,
I’ll admit, this is probably a bit starry-eyed and will probably never be read by the President of the DRC….but it helps me to pray better. Not simply for my daughter, whom I hope to hold someday. But for her friends, her commune, her nation, and the future of the DRC that Jesus declares there is hope for. And I believe Him…