Bukavu, DRC, 26 November 2019 (F2A) – Maternal mortality is very high in DRC. The maternal mortality ratio is 846 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. In DRC, faith organisations manage about half of all health facilities. This makes them essential pillars of the country’s public health system.
Since yesterday, all faith organisations of Sud Kivu engage in dialogue on improving family health and wellbeing of their communities. Senior representatives including clergy and lay leaders of the Church of Christ in Congo, Islamic Community of Congo, Kimbanguiste Church, Catholic Archdiocese of Bukavu, Anglican Diocese of Bukavu and the Seventh Day Adventist Church are meeting for a week-long series of trainings, dialogues, advocacy and interfaith actions.
All representatives agree that their faith traditions call on them to uphold human dignity, human welfare and social and gender justice. We consider human beings as being, “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14) and “all created by God” (Surat Zumar verse 6). Medically, it is known that complications from pregnancy and childbirth are the leading causes of maternal mortality, and expanding access to essential family planning would help save women’s and girls’ lives. This is reflected in holy texts and religious teachings which encourage healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies. Yet, in Sud Kivu, 22% of women of reproductive age have an unmet need for family planning. In other words, they want to use a family planning method, but they don’t have access to it.
The events are organised by Faith to Action Network, in collaboration with International Islamic Center for Population Studies and Research, Al Azhar University and Cordaid, the Catholic Organization for Relief and Development Aid. “This is a direct follow up to the 2019 historic declaration of peace, freedom, women’s rights, when the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmad el-Tayeb, and Pope Francis, the head of the Catholic Church called for greater collaboration between Muslims and Christians” says Peter Munene, Chief Executive Director of Faith to Action Network.
On Monday, November 25th, events started with Sud Kivu’s Vice Governor Marc Malago Kashekere and Church of Christ in Congo’s Provincial President Prof Dr Jean-Luc Kuye-Ndondo wa Mulemera, and all faith leaders in Bukavu welcoming visitors from Al Azhar University. Al Azhar University’s Prof Dr Tarek Salman is Vice President of Post Graduate Studies and Research. Prof. Ibrahim Salah is President emeritus of Al-Azhar University and currently a Member of the Supreme Committee for Education Reform at Al-Azhar. Prof. Dr. Ahmed Ragab is a professor of reproductive health and sexual health. This prompted discussions towards a strategic partnership between the province of Sud Kivu and Al Azhar University for the benefit of the whole community – both Muslims and Christians. This will comprise medical support to the province as well as scholarships for people from Sud Kivu to study in Egypt: Islamic studies, family planning, health, engineering and more.
After a lecture on family planning and reproductive health from a medical perspective, the discussions continue will continue today: the demographic dividend; human dignity, social justice and gender justice; family planning and reproductive health from different perspectives. This will culminate in an interfaith commitment in support of family health and wellbeing, which will be presented in a press conference, meeting with the provincial technical working group on family planning, a meeting with the governor, and finally several interfaith prayers.
“Will Sud Kivu’s faith organisations live up to their responsibility to act?” asks Peter Munene from Faith to Action Network, “the holy texts are clear: “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” (1 John 3:17-18). “And say, “Do [as you will], for Allah will see your deeds, and [so, will] His Messenger and the believers. And you will be returned to the Knower of the unseen and the witnessed, and He will inform you of what you used to do.” (Surat Taubah verse 105)