The Baha’is of the Democratic Republic of the Congo are drawing on community ties to keep tens of thousands of people updated on preventive health measures and hopeful news.
“The Congolese Baha’is have focused for years on building communities founded on spiritual principles of unity and interdependence,” says Rachel Kakudji of the Baha’i community’s Office of External Affairs. “In this new situation, the importance of the bonds of trust and friendship developed in small neighborhoods and villages has become all the more essential.”
On the basis of its experience with social and economic development efforts in agriculture, education, and health, the Baha’i community of the country is publishing a series of new articles on its national website to provide advice, such as what crops to plant to ensure food security.
Through the networks of thousands of Congolese participating in Baha’i community-building efforts, this information is being rapidly disseminated in cities and rural areas alike.
Youth involved in Baha’i educational programs that develop capacity for service are finding creative ways to promote greater degrees of unity among their fellow citizens and dispel misconceptions about the outbreak. Young people in Mbuji-Mayi, Eastern Kasai province, for example, wrote a song in the Tshiluba language answering questions posed by younger youth about the disease.
“The lyrics are intended to teach the whole community about the crisis and inspire solidarity as we change our daily patterns to save lives,” says Sinclair Mbiya, one of the songwriters. “The youth were eager to sing their song Tutshimuna COVID-19, which means ‘Overcoming COVID-19.’” A major broadcaster is playing the song on radio throughout the region.
Timely information has been vital in assisting communities to act early and draw inspiration from other parts of the country. In the province of South Kivu, Baha’is in the village of Canjavu are rallying the entire population to action while maintaining safety measures put in place by the government.
“On the economic level, the health crisis does not scare us because we have been investing in education, for some time, that raises our capacity for service to society and for economic activity,” says a resident of the village. “We had noticed that, despite sincere offers of support to our community, many people still had to go to the mines to meet the needs of their families.
“Today, in our village, we have nearly 3,700 people out of 3,920 who are involved in community-building activities in a sustainable manner. In our village, Baha’is, Catholics, and Protestants support one another without prejudice or other obstacles between them: we work together, we learn together, we pray together.”
Another resident, who operates a business in Canjavu, distributed some of his stores of disinfectants to families in the community and provided instructions on how to sanitize surfaces in the home.
“A large part of the population has access to information, but this is not the same as internalizing and accepting it,” says Mrs. Kakudji. “The Baha’i community, as a trusted voice, is reinforcing messages that can help people take precautions, remain hopeful, and help each other face this challenge in a spirit of love and collaboration.”