Ten for Congo - Congo Journal 1
Three years ago I heard a radio report about the ongoing civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Three facts grabbed me:
- Over 5 million people had died, making it the deadliest conflict since World War II.
- Millions more had to flee the violence in their villages, becoming “internally displaced people” living in temporary, squalid camps.
- A major weapon of war in the Congo was rape.
The radio host called the DRC the “rape capital of the world,” claiming that thousands of women and girls had already been viciously raped, and that the incidence of rape continued to escalate.
I thought these “facts” had to be false. If something so horrific were happening in the world, wouldn’t I know it? Wouldn’t I hear about it every night on the news? So I did a little research—and learned that the only thing false about the facts was that they actually underestimated the number of casualties and victims of this brutal war.
Several months after hearing that radio broadcast, my friend Christine and I traveled to the DRC. We discovered first-hand that the situation was every bit as horrific as claimed. We visited the eastern region of the DRC that is, arguably, the most blood-stained piece of geography on earth today.
I met women like Charlene whose civilian husband had been killed in the crossfire of warring rebels.
Forced to flee with her children to a camp for displaced people, Charlene had been raped and impregnated by rebel soldiers who hid in the forest, waiting to attack vulnerable women. Charlene told us that the women knew the soldiers were there, but the threat of starvation forced them to enter the woods and forage for firewood they could then trade for food to feed their children.
Women in the villages of eastern Congo don’t talk about if they’ll be raped, but when. And it’s not just any rape. It’s brutal, sadistic, gang rape that leaves bodies and souls broken and bleeding. Rebel fighters claim it’s cheaper to rape a woman than waste a bullet. Cheaper and more effective. If you rape enough women, you can shred the social fabric of an entire village.
The camps in which displaced people live offer a bleak refuge.
Entire families live in makeshift shelters like these. Eager to get back to their normal lives of subsistence farming, families return to their villages as soon as possible, only to find their homes and crops destroyed.
They return home to discover they have nothing.
But there is hope in Congo. Local church leaders and volunteers, trained and empowered by World Relief, are offering compassion and healing to broken women and are helping to build a grassroots foundation of peace in this war-torn land.
In just over ten days, Christine and I will return to eastern Congo with World Relief, part of a team of ten women committed to standing in solidarity with the women of Congo.
Our group of ten includes seven women who will travel to Congo on a plane, and three who will travel with us in spirit. On June 4, those of us carrying passports and checking luggage will fly to Nairobi, Kenya, to attend a peace conference (more about that in a later blog) and then on to Kigali, Rwanda. After a night of rest, we’ll be driven to the Congolese border, which we’ll cross on foot into the town of Goma. As we are crossing continents, three other women—one from Chicago, one from Baltimore, and one from Orange County—will be praying for us, reading our blog updates, and posting their reflections on my blog and theirs.
Together, we are calling ourselves Ten for Congo. Our goal is to raise awareness about the DRC—the gaping wound of the world. Most Americans are like I was just a few years ago, totally clueless about what’s happening day after day after day in Congo. We women of Ten for Congo want to change that. We want to provide a voice for the voiceless people of the Congo. Actually, we want to shout for Congo! We want to be loudspeakers for Congo! We want to bellow for Congo!
Will you join us?
With your help, our ten voices can become 10 x 10 voices, or 10 x 10 x 10 voices, or 10 x 10 x 10 x 10 voices.
Imagine 10,000 voices bellowing on behalf of Congo!
Every day between now and our Congo departure, I’ll be posting more Ten for Congo facts and stories. Tomorrow I’ll introduce the first ten voices. You can add your voice to ours by using the buttons below to forward this blog to your friends, post it on your Facebook page, or Tweet about it. If you haven’t already, be sure to friend me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter for updates and alerts about new blog posts.
In the meantime, take your first action step for Congo by clicking here to read more from Charlene’s Story.
And don’t forget to check back tomorrow to meet the Ten for Congo team.
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