By Anita Amstutz
United Nations investigative worker Michael Sharp, also known as MJ to his friends, went missing March 12 — abducted in the Congo, along with four Congolese and a Swedish colleague. Three were recently confirmed dead, found in a shallow grave. Even as the Mennonite and international community mourn Michael’s tragic and untimely death, all of these young peacemakers have brought a spotlight again to the Democratic Republic of Congo and it’s more than 20 year deadly civil war. This Central African country, rich in mineral resources, has become a region known for “conflict minerals”—coltan, tin, gold, tungsten and other minerals.
Like blood diamonds, “conflict minerals” refer to raw materials that come from a particular part of the world where militarized conflict competes for control of these resources. This is the 21st century legacy of colonization — multinational corporations economically dominate a country’s resources, which in turn feed the industrialized First World’s appetite for technology, while financing corruption and violence. In the Congo, women are regularly raped. Child soldiers proliferate. People disappear. The death rate is comprised of 47% children.
According to in-country Congolese activists, MJ and his colleagues were investigating corruption, abuses and deaths by President Kabila’s “security forces” in the Kasai region—a highly volatile area of clashes between rebel and government armies.
May we honor the lives of these peacemakers by taking a good look at how these minerals affect our daily lives as consumers and what we must do to divest of all that is destroying this country that MJ Sharp gave his life to save.