I was born in Bukavu in Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaïre). My parents were polygamous so I didn’t have a great family structure. I grew up Roman Catholic and then, at age 17, I was baptized in the Pentecostal church. As a child, life in Congo was extremely difficult. I lived under the dictatorship of president Mobutu Sese Seko, who ruled for 32 years, and I witnessed the fall of his regime in 1997 to rebels led by Laurent Kabila with the support of Rwanda and Uganda.
We hoped that things could get better after Mobutu fled. Unfortunately, things went from bad to worse, as the second war broke out in 1998 between the government and the rebels who brought Kabila to power a year earlier. As a result, other African countries such as Zimbabwe, Angola, Chad and Namibia sent soldiers to Congo to help Kabila’s regime and the Congolese civil war became an “African World War.”
In 2001, Kabila was assassinated by his bodyguard and, strangely enough, his son Joseph Kabila, the current president, became leader of the country at the age of 29. Those chaotic political circumstances led me to escape Congo and flee to South Africa.
Unfortunately, South Africa has its own problems caused by historical injustices and racial divisions. I never felt safe in South Africa because of xenophobia and the high rate of crime. I always wanted to leave Africa and go somewhere I could live in peace or complete my university studies. Finally, in 2008, I ended up in Canada as a refugee in the village of Floradale in southern Ontario.
Soon after I arrived in Canada, I joined Floradale Mennonite Church and I can still remember the amazing welcoming spirit that I received there: people made me feel at home. One year later, I transferred my membership from the Pentecostal church and became a full member of this Mennonite community.
In my journey of faith the Mennonite church has helped me understand the concept of loving your neighbour and serving the community as a way of sharing God’s love. The Pentecostal church focussed more on building a personal relationship with God and a strong emphasis was put on fasting, praying and worshipping God. Although I cherish and treasure those faith values, I admire the simplicity of Mennonites and their commitment to social justice issues.
I am very grateful for all the opportunities that Canada has given me since I arrived: my citizenship and education. I do not think that Canada is a destination of choice for many immigrants because of employment opportunities or prosperity, as many people assume. Rather, it is values such as democracy, the rule of law and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms that make Canada unique and special.
When I ran away from Congo, I was not running away from poverty or unemployment, but I was running away from violence, corruption, dictatorship and human rights abuses. There is no price for peace.
It has been an amazing journey since I left Congo and for the eight years I have been in Canada. Through the church I met my wife Angela, and together we are raising our three children. I graduated with degrees from the University of Waterloo and Laurentian University, Sudbury, Ont., and I now work for the Waterloo Region District School Board as an elementary teacher in Elmira, Ont. This spring I became a Canadian citizen.
There is no way I could have achieved all this by myself. I am very indebted to the wonderful people at Floradale Mennonite Church who adopted me as their own and have given me wings. Now I feel like I can fly.