In conflict-ridden Goma, eastern DR Congo, a church has raised money, not for its parish members, but for refugee women who are seeking protection in the German state of Saarland.
Kambale Kilumbiro Martin carefully hands in a small envelope, shakes a few hands, and takes some photos. His face is lit with pride. Martin is the head of a church delegation from Goma, eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
The priest had collected 1,000 US dollars (800 euros) from his parish members. The money is not meant for his people in his homeland, but for refugees in the German state of Saarland.
"We are also going through hard times in our country," Martin says. "But we also want to help our brothers and sisters in Saarland. They help us every time we are in difficulties. That's why we thought we should not be silent," he adds.
For 30 years, Martin's church has had a close relationship with the protestant church district of Saar-West in Germany. On Ascension Day last Thursday, both churches celebrated their anniversary of friendship with a joint service.
Mutual assistance in times of crisis
One thousand dollars - that's a lot of money in the DR Congo. The city of Goma is located on the far end of the capital Kinshasa. Its people are poor and its economy is flat on the ground.
Decades of violence had plunged the region into a civil war, with hundreds of thousands of people fleeing and seeking refuge in neighboring countries. These are problems that people in Saarland, over 9,000 kilometers away, only know through the news.
Many still remember a report from the DRC about a year ago. In January 2002, the Nyiragongo volcano erupted. This was the worst natural disaster in the region for years, in which gigantic black lava, flowing several hundred meters wide, blazed a trail through Goma.
The lava buried several villages on its path and destroyed parts of Goma including houses, shops, the cathedral, and offices of aid agencies. 400,000 people were temporarily displaced. Martin's counterparts in Saarland came to their aid. The Germans rebuilt their churches and schools and developed their water supply.
Money for refugee women
No one expected anything in return – especially not money. "I'm pleased, but also humbled," says Christian Weyer, a representative of the church district of Saar-West. Even though very minimal, Weyer's church accepted the donation.
"We helped them gladly. There was and still is a big emergency in Congo. But I think it's also a great effort from them, to say: Yes, we see you have an emergency too and we are willing to help," Weyer adds.
The money should be given to a women's project "Nour" at Lebach refugee camp. The Nour project helps women of all nationalities get free services if they, for example, happen to be victims of violence. They can be accompanied to doctors or the authorities for appointments. Some employees of Nour even offer German language courses.
"When there are disasters, women suffer the most," says Abigael Kavugho, a member of the church delegation from Goma. Goma is one of the most dangerous places in the world especially for women. They are often abducted, raped, and mutilated. That's why Kavugho thinks it’s important to give their donation to women in the Lebach refugee camp.
"Women and young girls are always exposed to violence, irrespective of the type of catastrophe," Kavugho says.