Accompaniment of Women and Girl Rape Victims Report
Church of Christ in Congo (ECC)
Democratic Republic of Congo
The Church of Christ in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is the Protestant ecumenical partner organization based in Kinshasa that relates to Global Ministries. The Global Ministries partner church, the Community of the Disciples of Christ in Congo (CDCC), forms part of the Church of Christ. Global Ministries has had a relationship with this organization since its birth and has supported ministries and several projects in recent years, but most notably those presented by the Department of Women and the Family.
The recent civil war following the departure of long-time dictator Mobutu Sese Seko lasted six years before there was relative calm. Although the war has officially ended, there are still skirmishes in the eastern part of Congo. The people of Congo have known many forms of violence – the death of more than five million people, the violent rape of women and girls, and the systematic destruction of infrastructure and the environment. Every region of the country has been affected; however, the eastern provinces continue to be plagued by atrocities. This is especially true of women and young girls who continue to be raped on a daily basis, with hundreds of new cases being reported.
The accompaniment with women who have been raped is important work. The ECC is working to build skills and capacity among the women and also provides money for a rotating micro-credit program for those women violated. The plan is to eventually provide programs for all four provinces affected by the war. Thus far, the Eastern Province project has been started. The Eastern Province was selected first because it has seen the largest number of atrocities.
In February 2009, the ECC Women and Family Department was at work in Ituri, in the Eastern Province, working with women violated. They discovered women who, after being raped, were punched in the eyes with sharp objects. There were others who, after being raped, were shot in the knees and had to have their legs amputated. They uncovered the case of a young woman, 16, who was raped and then committed suicide the same day her child was born because she could not bear to see the child that was the result of having been raped. The child is alive but without any family support. Just as devastating are the stories of very young girls (as young as three and a half) who were raped. Physical injuries caused to women and children who have been victims of sexual violence are severe and numerous.
The ECC work in Ituri consists of developing Bible studies on sexual violence. The hope is to reach a stage of beginning to restore the morale of the women, which is currently all but gone. Sessions to address the psychological trauma are provided by an expert who had received formation in Uganda. Women also received training to develop skills in pastry and bread making as an income-generation alternative.
The coordinating team at this time is completing the training and continues with the work and to check in with the women in the area. Two motorbikes and two bicycles have been purchased so the team can make visits. A portion of the funds administered by the program are, in part, used for medical care for raped women in dire need. However, the largest portion (about 80 percent) of the money is being used for the rotating micro-credit loans.
The project takes on other aspects when needed such as in cases like the orphaned infant whose young mother committed suicide. The coordinating committee in Ituri is currently caring for the child. For the young girls who have been raped, the project has decided to provide resources for their school fees instead of providing funds for micro-credit loans to start small businesses like is done with the adult women.
The movement of women who have been sexually assaulted has evolved in different ways. The authorities have arrested some of those responsible. These acts have diminished thanks to the measures taken by the authorities. In spite of this action, women still cannot go to their fields alone. They must be accompanied by their husbands. The women of the Church Federation on the ground in Ituri will continue to supervise the work.
The ECC will expand this ministry into Goma in North Kivu and Kindu in Maniema Province and is sure to find other dramatic cases in need of special attention. The degree of violence experienced by women in Ituri exceeded the expectations of the ECC.
Global Ministries continues to welcome special gifts for this work.