The Democratic Republic of Congo comes at the bottom of the list on the Human Development Index, home to a population of 75 million who have lived through two decades of violent civil war, and an estimated 5.8 million deaths due to conflict since 1998.
The town of Goma borders Rwanda and hosted over 1 million refugees who poured over the border in 1994 and today still hosts hundreds of thousands of displaced Congolese families fleeing the on-going civil conflict. Situated next to Lake Kivu, the town boasts a spectacular view over an expanse of water harbouring a deadly concentration of carbon dioxide and methane gases in its deep waters. Just behind the town stands an active volcano, which smokes continually and occasionally spurts molten rock down the mountainside.
It is in this stunning landscape that the extremes of beauty and brutality make themselves known. There are rare mountain gorillas living in the mountainous jungle north of Goma. Further into these same hills guerrilla groups are responsible for the violent attack upon civilians, killing women and children, leaving villages devastated in their wake.
Some may say we are particularly brave or courageous to set up home here. Brave or stupid, we feel blessed to be able to share life with the Congolese people and are continually humbled by those we meet who have such hope and energy in a place that has been known as the ‘heart of darkness’.