Christian leaders in the Democratic Republic of the Congo recently established a partnership with the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI), based in Colorado Springs CO, and are seeking to train educators and improve the quality of education in their nation. “With this one new office opening, we’ve added an additional 17,500 elementary and secondary schools, and we’re serving over 2.3 million more children,” says ACSI President Brian Simmons. “This is an exciting time for ACSI, and it’s a sobering responsibility that God has given us.”
ACSI will come alongside educators in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to offer expertise. “They want help training their teachers and their administrators and their chaplains to be authentically Christian in terms of education, because they know that’s the future,” says Dan Egeler, senior vice president for ACSI Global. “Education with a Christian worldview will unshackle the minds of young men and women to truly change their country.”
The DRC is one of the world’s poorest countries, and its east side remains a war zone. Protestant Bishop Marini Bodo, president of a Christian coalition in the DRC, sees the partnership with ACSI as a tool to accomplish that goal. “The ACSI–DRC office will not have the image of the West,” he said, “but the image of Christ.” Bodo also served as president of the nation's senate.
The DRC’s ownership in this educational effort is one key to its success; another is Christian unity: Protestant schools, hospitals, publishers, and other organizations representing 65 denominations are part of an umbrella organization called the Church of Christ in Congo (CCC). According to a ASCI press release, "The Francophone nation’s 17,500 government-sponsored Christian schools are part of the CCC, though at present they are Christian in name only. However, the CCC has freedom to reset the tone for these schools by working with ACSI to retrain teachers and introduce Christian curriculum. ACSI leaders from around the globe, including an African and a Frenchman, will come alongside the Congolese ACSI staff as older brothers, ensuring this effort is thoroughly indigenous."
Protestant denominations include Kimbanguism, which was once seen as a threat to the colonial regime and was banned by the Belgians. Kimbanguism, officially "the church of Christ on Earth by the prophet Simon Kimbangu", now has about three million members, primarily among the Bakongo of Bas-Congo and Kinshasa. The largest concentration of Christians following in the tradition of Texas-born William Branham is in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where it is estimated that there are up to 2,000,000 followers. Sixty-two of the Protestant denominations in the country are federated under the umbrella of the CCC (in French, Église du Christ au Congo or ECC). It is often simply referred to as 'The Protestant Church', since it covers most of the 35% of the population who are Protestants.
Education in DR Congo is neither compulsory nor free of charge. Students' parents are expected to pay teachers' salaries. Approximately 50 percent of school-age children actually attend classes. A fraticidal civil war has riven the country for six years as militias have gone on campaigns of rape and murder. Children are often compelled to serve as soldiers, as well as commit acts of violence such as beheadings and rape.
Approximately 50 percent of the total population of the DRC are Catholic, amounting to 35 million faithful. Besides involving over 40 percent of the population in its religious services, Catholic schools have educated over 60 percent of the nation's primary school students and more than 40 percent of its secondary students. The church owns and manages an extensive network of hospitals, schools, and clinics, as well as many diocesan economic enterprises, including farms, ranches, stores, and artisans' shops.
Cardinal Joseph-Albert Malula, who died in 1989, was considered to be one of the most dynamic prelates on the African continent in a predominantly Catholic country. He was of signal importance in introducing the Zairian rite of the Mass, which has since been accepted by Catholic authorities. He was a native of the DRC, which was once part of the Belgian Congo.
The news release asserted, "The seed for the partnership began a decade ago when God gave a Congolese leader something akin to Paul’s Macedonian call. Bishop Asial Idore Nyamuke, vice president for the CCC, heard an audible voice asking him to take care of His children. Nyamuke realized that, by investing in Christian schools, where 34 percent of the country’s students are enrolled, the CCC could make a huge Kingdom impact. With Marini’s blessing, he appointed a chaplain to serve Christian schools in his province, Kinshasa, and visited an ACSI member school in South Africa (where an ACSI office has operated since 2001). He met ACSI leaders there and, over the next several years, attended ACSI training events in South Africa, Niger, and Burkina Faso."
ACSI, headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colorado, is comprised of more than 23,400 member Protestant Christian schools in 100 nations worldwide.