Refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo have comprised an increasing portion of refugees resettling in the United States in recent years. The population in Minnesota is still small, but we could see more Congolese refugees in the coming years and we wanted to share a bit more information about the situation in DRC.
Most refugees from the DRC were displaced during First and Second Congo Wars (1996–1997 and 1998–2003,) and the Kivu Conflicts in eastern DRC (2004–present). The DRC was deeply affected by the genocide in Rwanda in 1994 when millions of refugees from Rwanda fled into eastern DRC. Now, refugees from the DRC are dispersed in Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and other neighboring countries. Because of decades of conflict and limited opportunities to integrate into host countries, resettlement is one of few options for many Congolese refugees.
Statistics show that sexual and gender-based violence have been very prevalent in this refugee population where it has been used as a weapon in the ongoing conflicts. One study showed that 48 women are raped every hour in the Congo. Combined with a significant number of individuals who were conscripted into armed groups, this group of refugees has seen incredible amounts of trauma.
Congolese refugees also have displayed incredible resilience and hope for life in the United States. They are confident in their ability to integrate into a new culture and succeed in the US. MCC Refugee Services has seen this first hand with the Congolese refugee families we have welcomed in the last few years. These families have known incredible challenges, but have optimistically and openly engaged with staff and volunteers as they navigate life in Minnesota.
You can read the stories of 2 Congolese families we welcomed with the help of church co-sponsors this year:
We also recommend this excellent article from the Episcopal News Service that shares the experience of new Congolese refugees in Arizona: http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/ens/2015/03/02/refugee-women-children-rebuild-lives-in-arizona/