Survivors of Violent Rape in the Congo
Democratic Republic of Congo
The Church of Christ of the Congo (ECC) is the Protestant ecumenical church partner in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with headquarters in the capital city of Kinshasa that relates to Global Ministries. The Community of the Disciples of Christ in Congo (CDCC) forms part of the ECC. Global Ministries has had a relationship with this ecumenical church organization since its birth and has supported ministries and several projects in recent years, most notably those presented by the ECC Department of Women and the Family.
The 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 Church of Christ of the Congo’s Department of Women and Family has cared for many of the victimized women through visits of consolation and solidarity. During these visits, they have learned that:
- Among the women who have been raped, many are traumatized doubly when they afterward are rejected by their husbands and their families because of the “shame” that the rape has brought to the family. These women also are continuing victims of barbaric actions by men in uniform and men of bad faith.
- Girls between four and twelve years of age have been victims of rape and their medical recovery is very slow due to the severity of injuries caused to these small children. Some of these injuries cannot be completely repaired; therefore, many girls will be physically affected for their entire lives.
- Women and children are at a high risk of HIV infection and other sexually transmitted diseases because of sexual assault.
- Women and girls are vulnerable to undesired pregnancies, and many are not in a position to support their newborns. Young girls’ health can be compromised by a pregnancy while they are still growing.
- The war has left many orphaned who are without family and community support. With an already debilitated infrastructure, the addition of many orphans further taxes the country already lacking in sanitation, education, food, and shelter.
Congolese local churches have stepped up and, despite their meager resources, provide some medical care and support to rape survivors and orphans. However, there still is a great need for long-term effective accompaniment if these survivors are to progress and find mental, spiritual, and psychological healing. These survivors must be allowed to vent their frustrations, alleviate the trauma, and find within themselves a spirit of forgiveness. They must also find means to rebuild their social and economic capacity.
The Church of Christ of the Congo’s Department of Women and Family has advanced in this work and asks Global Ministries to continue accompanying them on their journey to achieve the following objectives:
- Train women and men in counseling and psycho-social support of traumatized persons.
- Reinforce the economic capacity of women who have been raped to help restore their dignity and to aid in their social re-integration.
- Provide a revolving credit opportunity to approximately 150 women at a time in four provinces for a period of four months following the counseling process.
One particular place of refuge is the Mama Jeanne Center. Mama Jeanne opened a center where women can get help. Many come to the center first before going to the hospital and then return to the center after their hospitalization. In one room of the center many babies are kept with no one to care for them. They were either unwanted because of their conception, or the mother or family did not have any way to provide for them. In another room were older women. These women are being trained to provide for themselves by learning pastry making, knitting, sewing, weaving, and the making of baskets. Global Ministries was pleased to help these survivors by purchasing a number of baskets in 2014. Attached to the basket is a card that states ” . . . By touching this basket, you are symbolically touching the hand of a sister who has proven to not be a victim, but a resilient survivor!”
Update: August 2014
In early 2014 Global Ministries Africa Area Executive Reverend Sandra Gourdet, and Division of Overseas Ministries President/Global Ministries Co-Executive, Reverend Julia Brown Karimu, visited this work during a visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo. They met with a group of survivors who asked them not for pity, but for advocacy – asking Julia and Sandra to take the message of their plight to the peoples of the world.
In one town there are four hospitals to take care of those women who have been raped and tortured. Reverends Karimu and Gourdet visited one of those hospitals. In one ward they visited women who had undergone surgery to repair their damaged bodies after being raped. They were told that the doctors there perform an average of 2,000 such operations a year in addition to treating other diseases. In a second ward, young girls were being cared for until their babies are born. In a third ward, they encountered a 70 year-old woman who had been raped and tortured, which resulted in permanent disability.
Many women come for help from Mama Jeanne, who opened a Center where victimized women can get help. Many come to the Center first before going to the hospital, and then return to Mama Jeanne’s Center after their hospitalization. In one room of the Center were many babies who arrived because there was no one to care for them. The infants were either unwanted because of the way they were conceived or there was simply no relative to care for them. In another room were older women being trained to provide for themselves by learning pastry -making, knitting, sewing, weaving, and basket-making.
Global Ministries was pleased to help survivors by purchasing a number of their handmade baskets. Attached to each basket is a card that states: By touching this basket, you are symbolically touching the hand of a sister who has proven to not be a victim, but a resilient survivor! Global Ministries recently sent funds to the Mama Jeanne Center for teachers, roof repair, the building of restrooms, and milk for the babies.
Funds are needed to continue assisting these amazing women, in order to keep their testimony alive through their powerful courage and initiatives.
Learn one way that funds are raised for this work here.
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