Democratic Republic of the Congo: Breaking the Silence

Sarah Obotela, a master’s student in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), describes how she saw God working through a conference she’d organized to help students process the trauma of war. 

Since independence in 1960, the DRC has suffered decades of conflict and violence, which continues today in the east. Although many civilians have fled and settled in calmer areas of the country, they suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).     

Seeing the Invisible 

Sarah sensed that many students were burdened with the “invisible suffering” of PTSD – emotionally wounded, feeling dead inside and abandoned by God, yet unable to talk about it.  

“If we can’t put an end to the war, let’s at least take care of those suffering its negative effects,” she vowed. 

In addition to studying for her master’s in sociology at the University of Kisangani, Sarah works part-time for her IFES national movement, Groupes Bibliques Universitaires (GBU). And, through the IFES Logos and Cosmos Initiative (LCI), she is leading an innovative project that combines psychosocial and theological approaches to mental health.  

Recognizing the Pain 

Having identified and interviewed around 30 students with PTSD in Kisangani, she organized a public event last September. Experts in theology, psychology, and sociology shared their perspectives so that victims could begin to recognize PTSD and its impact.  

Over 40 students heard about psychological symptoms (like repetitive nightmares, flashbacks, and negative emotions), social impacts (like avoiding groups or fear of speaking up), and theological issues (like doubting God’s goodness or power, renouncing faith, or turning to fetishism).  

All those who recognized such trauma in their own lives then received follow up visits from Sarah and a team of GBU volunteers, accompanied by psychologists and pastors. 

Breaking the Silence 

With the groundwork laid and trust built, it was time to break the silence. 

In March, around 25 students accepted Sarah’s invitation to a private day-conference, where they were encouraged to share their stories. Sarah was glad to see as many as 15 courageously describe their traumatic experiences:

 “It was an important step towards them being able to separate themselves from the nightmares and memories.” 

The tears and cries were followed by moments of joy as the day concluded over a meal, with games, chatting, and laughter. The silence was truly broken. 

Sarah sees God’s work in her too:  


  • Give thanks for Sarah and her LCI project – that she’s been able to offer Christ’s love to victims of war in such a practical way. Pray they will find full healing in him. 
  • Pray for Sarah, concluding her project with the publication of a paper; may her work encourage holistic care within GBU and across the university. 
  • Pray for peace in the DRC and for GBU ministering in this difficult context. Ask the Lord to provide for three full-time staff so that its 8,000+ GBU students and pupils can be better supported. 
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