The CRC was created in Nyankunde in 1993, under the initiative of its current President of the General Assembly, Mr. Ben MUSSANZI WA MUSSANGU with the assistance of the Evangelical Medical Center (CME) of Nyankunde. in order to reduce the impact bloody conflicts between two major ethnic conflicts in the District of Ituri in Orientale Province, which fought often and whose effects had a negative impact on the community.
In 1997, the CRC will be officially recognized in the District of Ituri (Orientale Province in past years) with as headquarters Nyankunde. Following multiple violent conflicts that resulted in threats to the Organization, the CRC is then moved from Nyankunde in Bunia in 2001, and then from Bunia to Beni (North Kivu) in 2003 where it established its headquarters temporarily. Its head office is recognized by statute in Bunia.
The CRC was created in 1993, under the initiative of Mr. Ben Mussanzi wa Mussangu, who at the time was a radiologist at the Centre Médical Evangélique in Nyankunde-Bunia.
The story begins with Ben Mussanzi wa Mussangu, who was forced to flee from his home in eastern DRC to the UK in 2001. Born into the Ngiti tribe which lives around Nyankunde, southeast of Bunia, he was working as a radiologist in Rwanda in 1992 when he was asked to help reconcile three bishops who had been feuding for a decade. The power of this mediation convinced him that God was directing him to return home and share this knowledge with his own tribe.Mussanzi and his wife Kongosi, a teacher, returned home the next year to Nyankunde, which was home to the Centre Médical Evangélique (CME), a large hospital and teaching facility created by five local churches in 1966 to serve a local population of 150,000. Both worked at CME and lived in a small house just above the main hospital buildings. Violence erupted between the Ngiti and Hema tribes six months after their return, and Mussanzi, whose name in Ngiti means ‘friend of everybody’, was nearly killed by young drug-crazed Ngiti men who did not initially realize he was from their own tribe. Trembling as he rode his bicycle home after the attack, he pledged to God to begin teaching his own people about community cohesion and harmony and the need for people to live and work together despite their differences.
Learning by Trial and Error.
Slowly, by trial and error and advice from others, he learned how to educate communities about conflict transformation in a way that they could understand clearly. His first strategy was to travel to villages in the war zone on Friday night and get up early on Saturday mornings to shout his message from the hills above the village. Many people, including Kongosi, thought he had lost his mind. Then a young sociologist politely suggested that a better strategy would be to bring together community leaders in gatherings where Mussanzi could talk rather than shout, and that he would be happy to help in organizing such meetings. Between 1993 and 1997, operating from Mussanzi’s living room and funded from his own salary, CRC organized seven such ‘mini-conferences’ which brought together as many as 100 community leaders. As CRC invited influential people who had a constituency to whom they could pass on the message, and as Mussanzi’s teachings – based on common sense and Biblical messages – resonated with local people, this work made him well known across the entire Ngiti region.
In 1997, when UK-based trainers Simon Fisher and Sue Williams delivered a workshop for community leaders in eastern DRC in 1997, people told them about Mussanzi’s work. They invited him to attend a course in Birmingham at which they taught the theoretical foundations of conflict transformation. Mussanzi realized that this material would not be meaningful in DRC unless it was translated into the same kind of language he already used. “I said honestly this will not work here, and so from there I designed something new, using the same scientific knowledge but giving examples and cases from the Bible.” He entitled this manual, “Conflict resolution in communities, cases from the Bible”.
CRC’s work in teaching tolerance, mutual respect, love of God and love of neighbor, peace and non-violent resolution of conflict in eastern DRC had three goals. It wanted to create a network of people who were trained in preventing, managing and transforming conflict; to help communities in conflict to learn and strive for peace, forgive each other, and create a culture of trust that would benefit their children and grandchildren; and to encourage all those with a vocation for peace to practice their skills.
As word of this work spread outside DRC after 1997, CRC began to develop a higher profile internationally, even as the war worsened in Ituri. By 1999, more than 50,000 people had been killed and half a million displaced in what came to be known as the ‘Ituri wars’.