It seems as though the Christmas shopping season, which officially kicked off on Black Friday, is a bigger deal than ever this year. For the first time stores opened on Thanksgiving rather than waiting until the wee hours of Friday morning to welcome hoards of shoppers. Some people, eager to be the first to snag a killer deal on a 50-inch LED television, camped out in front of stores like Target and Best Buy Best for a week.
Truth be told, I don’t have a problem with Black Friday and Christmas shopping or with people camping out on sidewalks across the nation for days in order to get a good deal. I mean, who doesn’t want a great price on everything these days?
But I do have a problem when this consumer nation is uneducated about the products they are buying such as how objects are made and where the materials to make all the products we love so much come from. Sometimes it seems that America, a country in which education is freely available to any and all who desire it, operates as one of the more ignorant, uneducated nations in the world in terms of understanding how things work globally.
A few days ago, a Rwandan and Ugandan backed rebel army called M23, invaded and took control of the largest Eastern Congo city Goma. Since April of this year, M23 has slowly been moving in towards Goma. Sadly, they succeeded in taking control of the city of 1 million civilians earlier this week. It’s important to understand what the rebels are after and why. Congo is rich in resources and minerals. Gold and Coltan are among the most desirable and valuable.
Coltan is a mineral used in most electronics manufactured around the world. If there is ever a day when Americans demand for electronics is evident, it’s on Black Friday. Just look at the picture above of the people waiting in line for an entire 7 days at Best Buy.
I recently watched a brief documentary on the Congo conflict (shown below) and I learned about 3 reasons why this absurd and greedy war over minerals continues to rage while the world stands by silently.
Guilt. Rwanda and Uganda are strong allies with Britain and the United States. After the Rwandan genocide took place in 1994, political world leaders knew what was taken place as roughly 800,000 innocent civilians were massacred and yet, they did nothing. Out of guilt for their idle ways, the United States began providing Rwanda with financial support as well as arms support.
Economic Demand. As I mentioned above, the global demand is so great for minerals such as Coltan, that the profit made has become much greater than the human life living in the areas where Coltan is located.
Silence. Due to lack of global pressure upon the Congolese President, Uganda and Rwanda, as well as other African leaders and US policy makers and leaders, including the UN, this atrocity can continue on simply because the world does not even know it’s happening.
Conflicts like this one in Congo are unfortunately not new. People have been placing greed of things over human beings for a long time.
Poor Amos, the prophet called to be the bearer of bad news to his generation had to communicate these words of God to the Israelites:
“They sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals. They trample on the heads of the poor as upon the dust of the ground and deny justice to the oppressed.” (Amos 5:6-7)
King Solomon, the wisest of men said, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9)
The Congo conflict will not go away over night. Nor will boycotting electronic devises solve the deeply rooted hurt and problems that have for generations plagued Central Africa. And yet, for those called to a greater purpose than the things of this world, there is great responsibility to be good stewards with all that we have been given; not just in wealth but also in knowledge. Especially for those of us in the west, we truly can make a difference in the entire world if we simply stop and consider the purchases we make each and every day and how those purchases may in fact affect other people globally.
In terms of the above 3 reasons the Congo conflict rages on, Jesus has answers for all of them.
Guilt. Jesus wants us to take our burden of guilt to him. In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus tells us, "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." If you look up the word 'labor' in the NT Greek, it basically means to toil under a burden. What kind of people are heavy laden and labor in their souls? People who are laboring under the burden of guilt. How might the Congo conflict look different if the guilt over the Rwandan genocide was dealt with, with Jesus?
Economic Demand. Jesus taught that Earthly ‘stuff’ is temporary as this life we live in now is also temporary. Instead, this is what he says about riches and treasures: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21) How might the Congo conflict look different if the hearts of men were more concerned with life in the kingdom of heaven than on the dying things of the earth?
Silence. Jesus taught us to speak up for the poor and oppressed and to take action when necessary. “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” And Proverbs 31:8-9 tells us, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” How might the Congo conflict look differently if the world resounded with opposition towards such evil and spoke up for the Congolese who now suffer?
As we go through yet another Christmas and consumerism season, how great is the need for our complete dependence upon Jesus and for the words Jesus taught us to pray with, to invade our broken world with who he is!
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be thy name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory forever and ever.”
"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." Edmund Burke
Educate yourself on the Congo conflict.