Churches are helping to give Congolese women a voice

By staff writers
19 Dec 2006

Women have borne the brunt of the cruel devastation of war in the Congo and still
live with huge scars – writes Judy Amunga of Nairobi, Kenya, who participated in a recent Christian Peacemaker Teams delegation to the East of the country.

The Interahamwe (Hutu militia) raped Mawazo full view of her family then shot her in her uterus. Malaika was raped by five men. She begged for mercy from the fifth, who shot her in the uterus; then she lost her mind. She has been lucky to receive some psycho-social support through the Lutheran Church in Bukavu.

Other women have not been as lucky. Upendo has no husband, no education and no shelter. Since her rape by the rebel groups, her husband chased her away, saying he had no use for her. Eighty percent of the women in Eastern Congo are also illiterate and cannot therefore access the funds trickling in to help the area get development.

In Bukavu, an urban town, one finds educated women, some of whom competed in the recently held general elections. These women have vowed to rebuild their society. They are filling an important gap by helping the victims of sexual crimes access help and assisting in bringing known perpetrators of the sexual violence to justice. They live under constant death threats because of her work.

The Church in the Eastern Congo plays a pivotal role in bringing people together as well as rebuilding families and offering hope through their teachings. In a country where the basic political unit had been reaped apart through so much gender-based violence, it is a story of hope that the church has embraced so many outcasts.
Even the government during these elections recognized the role of the church and involved many Christian leaders to be polling agents.

Like all good things however, abuse is beginning to creep into church and rural women complain that some men in their churches have all the leadership positions and control the way funds flow into their rural based projects.

The women ask that their stories be heard and ask that they in the Democratic Republic of Congo be left to till their fertile land, run their projects, sing their songs, worship and just enjoy peace as they reconstruct their society. Their specific plea is for those who were raped and violated to receive trauma and counseling.

In the meantime, churches are brimming to the full, atop each hill is a church, women step out in elegance and children are still being born. These are signs that this dignified society will go on as women and sing with gladness, as they find therapy, hoping that in God’s name, the international community shall hear their voices.

The women plead for peace, for a chance to be allowed to choose the fabric and cut it according to their taste and furnish their bodies and their homes with hope and song.

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Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) seeks to enlist the whole church in organized, nonviolent alternatives to war and places teams of trained peacemakers in regions of lethal conflict. Originally a violence-reduction initiative of the historic peace churches (Mennonite, Church of the Brethren and Quaker), CPT now enjoys support and membership from a wide range of Christian denominations.

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