I’ve spent the last three years living and working with Congo Initiative - Université Chrétienne Bilingue Du Congo (CI-UCBC) in Beni, Democratic Republic of Congo. Beni is located in eastern DRC which has largely and justly been characterized as a region devastated by conflict and oppression rooted in dark colonial and dictator legacies and and now fueled by the desire to control Congo’s valuable resources. Since 1998, an estimated 5.4 million people have died as a result of war, disease and malnutrition, and an estimated 300,000 women raped.
It is within this context that CI-UCBC desires to empower the people through offering education that is practical and holistic, committed to academic inquiry, student service and community engagement. I had the privilege of participating from the beginning of the initiative, teaching English Language Learning and eventually moving into a role of communications and administration. I’ve found myself in love with the work and the community to the extent I now describe Beni as my “second home”.
Though the realities may be rightfully described as tragic and heart-wrenching, there also exists immense beauty, resiliency, and hope often absent in headlines. It is here that I found an amateurs love for photography and capturing the uniqueness, creativity, and beauty found in the people and the environment. Like the others featured on Peace Photography, I’ve been shaped intimately by my friends, students, and community in Congo; by their perseverance in the face of such suffering and oppression; by their resilient hope and faith that never fades; and by the beauty and creativity that exists in the culture and environment. Within these qualities, the people find and express peace. My desire and perhaps responsibility is to continue sharing these expressions.
Justin now resides in Durham, NC where he is pursuing graduate studies at Duke University - Divinity School. He desires to incorporate theology, writing, and international development policy into his work with CI-UCBC. All proceeds from sales of his photos from Congo will be donated to the Congo Initiative, www.congoinitiative.org.