Michael J. “M.J.” Sharp ‘05, a United Nations official and former Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) peace worker, has been confirmed dead today [March 28] in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In this 2015 photo provided by MCC, he visits with Elizabeth Namavu and children in Mubimbi Camp, home to displaced persons in the Democratic Republic of Congo. (Photo by Jana Asenbrennerova. Used with permission)

Alumnus Michael J. Sharp among confirmed dead in Democratic Republic of Congo

Michael J. “M.J.” Sharp ‘05, a United Nations official kidnapped with five others in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) two weeks ago, has been confirmed as deceased by the Congolese government, according to Reuters.

The bodies of two Caucasians, a male and female, were found in the Central Kasai region, where Sharp and a female colleague went missing. A third body, later confirmed as Congolese interpreter Betu Tshintela, was also found.

The Washington Post reported earlier today that Congolese government spokesman, Communications Minister Lambert Mende, told Top Congo FM that the bodies were found Monday but did not confirm they were of Sharp or the second UN official kidnapped with him, Zaida Catalan of Sweden.

“It’s now a certainty. It is the two investigators. We identified the third body in the grave with them as their Congolese interpreter,” Mende told Reuters.

The U.N. has not released any information as of press time.

“We are deeply saddened to hear this heart-wrenching news,” said EMU President Susan Schultz Huxman. “Our prayers go out to M.J. and his family, as well as to the families of others devastated by violence in the DRC.”

Congolese native Fidele Lumeya, a 2000 graduate of EMU’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding, had been in contact with those in the Congo working on Sharp’s behalf. He is head of the Congolese American Council for Peace and Development, based in Silver Spring, Maryland.

“On behalf of the Congolese diaspora community in the United States that I represent, I am saddened this news,” he said in a statement issued today. “Michael took a most perilous mission to investigate the ongoing killings, showing deep respect for the dignity of humankind and the women and children of Central Congo. His work in the Congo is a legacy of who we are as human beings, as Mennonites and Christian disciples.”

Sharp was part of a UN panel of experts investigating ongoing civil conflicts in the country. Violence had escalated over the weekend, with the murders of 42 police officers tasked with fighting a regional militia known as Kamuina Nsapu.

Congolese and UN officials had stated that search efforts to locate kidnapped individuals were underway.

Reports by Reuters, Al Jazeera and other outlets note that the Kasai region has seen fighting and rebellion since September 2016 after the August killing by government forces of Kamwina Nsapu. Nsapu was a tribal chief and militia leader who had resisted President Joseph Kabila.

Sharp came to Eastern Mennonite University from Goshen, Indiana, and earned a BA in history with a minor in German in June 2005.

He has been serving with the UN since April 2015. Prior to that, Sharp worked with Mennonite Central Committee as the Eastern Congo Coordinator. [Read an article.]

In January 2015, he spoke to NPR about serving alongside the Congolese Protestant Council of Churches trying to persuade rebel fighters to lay down arms. The joint work had convinced some 1,600 fighters to give up arms.

Earlier coverage is available here.

Discussion on “Alumnus Michael J. Sharp among confirmed dead in Democratic Republic of Congo

  1. Such sad news. I have so many good memories of MJ, his sisters, and his parents in Scottdale, PA. Even as a little boy it was clear that he would go places and do great things. The world has lost someone very special.

  2. Erin, Laura and MJ became my special little kiddos as I met them at the school bus and cared for them until John came home from work on the days Michelle was in school. It was difficult for me when we moved and I had to leave them. They’re still my special kiddos. I’m grieving deeply.

  3. Total shock. MJ was an awesome guy, with an extremely charismatic personality. This just goes to show the transience of this world. Prayers for his family.

  4. My deepest sympathy to the whole of EMU community. Working for peace is the finest effort a Christian can make to further our Lord’s kingdom on earth. Ginger Aliott

  5. White House Daily Briefings: News media reporters had ample opportunity to ask the POTUS to provide a comment on Michael Sharp. Americans missing overseas deserves the same coverage, if not more, than Russia. Condolences to the family!

  6. My heart, my prayers and my peace work in Nigeria is dedicated to Michael, his family and so many working in this field. May God bless his family and our EMU community. Sending love, warmth and aloha. My condolences to the family!

  7. President KABILA and his men called KALEV of the service ANR they are the one that killed this brother. The U.S. knows about that. We want justice

  8. The Congolese population needs peace, democracy and human rights. Kabila MUST go. Enough is Enough. Him and his government are Criminals. He MUST go!

  9. its not a secret that the government of Mr. KABILA killed this innocent brother. May his soul rest in peace

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