Due to the unstable situation in the corridor along the Rwanda-Zaire border, the General Board of Global Ministries has begun removing its missionaries and volunteers from Uvira, Bukavu, and Goma. At the present time there is no indication that any of our people have been injured in the reported fighting along this corridor.
Global Ministries, the mission agency of the United Methodist Church, has been doing special work in the area with refugees from Rwanda. Our agency, joined by the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR), has remained in the strife-torn area to minister to the needs of victims of the ethnic clashes in Rwanda. We currently have eight Zairean United Methodist staffers, three missionaries, four volunteers and one staffer from UMCOR, our disaster relief unit.
According to U. S. Department of State officials, Bukavu, Zaire is under alert with fighting reported between Zairean forces in the border town and forces in neighboring Rwanda. The state department also reports earlier gunfire or shellfire into Uvira from the Rwandan side. There also are reports of fighting along the roads leading out of the cities. No casualties have been reported.
We have been assured by U.S. State Department officials that they will do everything possible to assist us in the evacuation of our people from the area. So far, the state department has not moved any of its people out of the area. However, we have been informed that the official in charge of UNHCR operations in the area has been ejected from Zaire, prompting the removal of the commission's non-essential staff from Bukavu. The Red Cross also has pulled some of its people out of the area.
As always, and never more so than in time of crisis, our church maintains a spiritual and healing presence. Bishop Onema Fama is in contact with his congregations and church workers and he is advising us of the most effective ways in which to redeploy our personnel so that they can continue their vital mission work in this troubled area.
As this situation is serious and very sensitive, we are taking every precaution to minimize the potential for harm to the people of the local church and to our other church personnel. We already have been advised by friendly sources that all communications out of the area, personal or otherwise, are being closely monitored and that inaccurate or inflammatory statements could increase the danger to our people.
In the interest of safety, we are heeding these warnings and are imploring all involved parties to exercise extreme caution in the sending of E-mail and other communications pertaining to the situation. Global Ministries is in very close contact with officials at the U.S. Department of State, the United Nations, the American Embassies in Nairobi and Kinshasa, and church personnel in the area. We will provide regular briefings and updates on the situation as well as timely information from the most reliable of sources.
This release has been posted on the web page of the General Board of Global Ministries http://gbgm-umc.org/africa/zaire/zaireal.htm. It is also available from Mission Fax, the faxback service of the General Board of Global Ministries, as document #904. Another background document on the economic and political situation and the United Methodist mission in Zaire is available as #705. To obtain these documents, call toll-free 1-800-793-5415 or contact Charles Cole (212) 870-3785. E-mail: email@example.com.
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