A group of Indiana Disciples who visited the Democratic Republic of Congo in May talked about their experiences on June 24 at a Global Ministries-sponsored luncheon in Indianapolis. They shared wonderful and moving stories about the hospitality they received from their counterparts in the Community of Disciples of Christ in Congo. They also talked about Congo’s human rights and environmental crisis relating to the mining of coltan.

Coltan (columbite-tantalite) is found in cell phones, laptops, and DVD players. I had never heard of it until a couple of years ago, when I met Rev. Boseala Eale, a church leader from Kinshasa, at the Disciples’ Michigan Regional Assembly. Rev. Eale told me that the mining of coltan in the eastern part of Congo results in death, violence, and injustice. In the end, most of the Congolese people receive nothing from the mining of coltan. The situation sounds very much like the mining of ‘conflict diamonds’ in Sierra Leone and other African countries, yet few people in North America know about this – yet.

Last month, Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) introduced the Conflict Coltan and Cassiterite Act, which, according the Brownback’s news release, would call for a certification process for minerals imported from the DRC. Here is a link to the full text of the bill – which was introduced, read twice, and referred to the Finance Committee.

North American Disciples have strong ties to our sister churches in Congo. We are in a position to bring attention to the need for justice and an end to violence surrounding coltan mining there. Let’s see what we can do to support this bill and other efforts to draw attention to Congo’s situations. Its wealth of natural resources could be used to help the Congolese people and can be mined without damaging the environment but without proper attention, that’s not likely to happen.