Conflict related to Land grabbing, land management and minorities protection: Church role

From July 4th to 9th 2018, a very first workshop on land grabbing and minorities issues has been held in Goma Democratic Republic of Congo, gathering 25 delegates of African UEM member churches including: CBCA; EPR; EAR; ELCT/KAD; ELCT/NWD; ELCT/ECD; ELCT/ NED and ECC attended this think tank. Organized by UEM Africa region and hosted by the Baptist Church in the Centre of Africa (CBCA) at Rudolf Center guest houses belonging to the church, participants are discussing on a theme “Think tank on conflict related to land management, land grabbing and protection of minorities”, with an opened participatory method that allows all participants to share about specific experiences from their own context. Different presentations were scheduled as follow:
– Land issues in the theology of land,
– Experiences exchange on DRC, Rwanda and Tanzania Churches,
– Minorities and land issue,
– State, land, Economy, population, church and minorities: a permanent conflict of interest (a particular topic that will be facilitated by His Excellence Nzanzu Kasivita the North Kivu Provincial land affairs minister.)

All the discussions answered to a couple of questions like:
How church obtain land in missionary time, after the missionaries and today, how the church assure his land ownership ( process, different authorities involved, legal documents and cost, What does law or land regulation stats about these issues and the description of Problems and challenges faced by the church in these particular cases.

This workshop has been a boosting activity that has pulled the attention of participants who have reveal challenges and the role that could be played by the churches in solving issues of land and how to prevent. Presenting on theology of the land, Dr Kahongya focused on how the land is a place for all creature. Having the right of possessing the land should guarantee the right of others to also have access on land. Rich and Powerful people will never live alone on the land. Poor, foreigners, minorities, servants and powerless have the same right of life on the same land.
For God shall greatly bless you in the land he has given as an inheritance to possess it. Deut 15:2-4, he concluded.

Some good discussion came out whereby, Church can be seen both as an oppressor and a victim in cases since, it happens to churches in DRC where, church members have owned church lands as far as they were granted to them by missionaries as a hospitality action. On the other hand, churches have ignore the obligation of valuing their lands according to the state law, relaying on kingship certificates and the result turn to the loss. This is some of problems that are creating great conflict within churches. How then will both church and community build a bridge of understanding for these specific land grabbing issues?

The meeting was honored by the presentation given by Hon Minister Nzanzu Kasivita who focused his presentation on how the church has the obligation to know legislation law, understand the necessity of protecting church lands but also find legal papers for all lands especially those acquired as gift from church members or any other person. It happen to many churches to have 30 Ha of a land without any certificate. Honorable ended by this saying, “It’s better for a church to sell 2Ha out of 30Ha in order to protect the land than keeping the 30 Ha not protected to end up losing all.”
Dr. Nagaju Muke, the Deputy Executive Secretary of UEM for Africa Region encouraged participants to build strong awareness, put down recommendations and objective thinking in resolving land problems as far as church is considered to be a place where people could find solace and rescue and not a place to be oppressed. Recommendations from this workshop will help the UEM member churches to advocate and grant fruitful resolutions resolving problems stated during the 4 days’ workshop period.
By Hulda Vagheni