Today is the international day of peace. And, as I sit here watching stories of violence in the news, whether about systematic violence in Syria or domestic violence in America, all I can think about is one place where violence has been raging since the mid-1990s: The Democratic Republic of Congo.
After the holocaust, the world said: Never Again.
After Rwanda, the world said: Never Again.
After 16 years, the genocide against women in the DRC continues.
In the DRC, atrocities happen every day – things that we can’t even fathom in our darkest nightmares: girls, even babies, are gang raped, tied up like animals for weeks, their vaginas mutilated – with broken bottles, chemicals, and gunshots. Fathers, brothers, husbands are forced to watch their children, sisters, and wives get raped and tortured, then killed themselves. Children are kidnapped, forced to become sexual slaves or child soldiers.
5.4 million people have died between 1998 and 2007 alone.[iii] Nearly 1.8 million women and girls have been raped. Roughly 10% of those are girls under 10 years old.[iv]
In the darkness, however, are stories of light: Our fearless co-founder, Elayne Doughty, just returned from her fourth trip to Eastern Congo where she trained caregivers and survivors on how to heal the deep traumas within themselves and their communities – even if the horror happens to them again and again… for we know that if survivors don’t find a way to heal their pain, they will pass on the trauma to their children and continue the cycle of violence.
And, our hero, Dr. Denis Mukwege, founder of Panzi Hospital in Eastern Congo, continues to repair the wounds of survivors with extreme physical trauma and genital mutilation – even after an assassination attempt by armed men outside his home. Every day, Dr. Mukwege risks his life in service of women survivors in his country. Survivors who, in deep service and gratitude, have vowed to ensure his security by guarding him day and night in groups of 20 at a time.[v]
Today, on this international day of peace, it’s time to say: Never Again. It’s not about their country versus our country or who has bigger problems. It’s about remembering that we are all a part of the human race, sharing the same planet.
It’s about teaching a lesson to our children that we will not stand for violence, whether in our homes, our communities, or across the world.
It’s about standing up to our international leaders and demanding that all human lives be treated with dignity and respect.
If we do, we will create a safer world for ourselves, our children, and indeed the future of humanity.
[i] UN official calls DR Congo 'rape capital of the world". BBC. (April 28, 2010). Retrieved September 12, 2013. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8650112.stm
[ii] Dias, E. (2009). First blood diamonds, now blood computers?. Time World, Retrieved from http://content.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1912594,00.html
[iii] Coghlan, B., Brennan, R., Ngoy, P., Dofara, D., Otto, B., Clements, M. and Stewart, T. (2006). Mortality in the Democratic Republic of Congo: a nationwide survey. The Lancet, 367 (9504), pp. 44-51.Top of FormBottom of Form
[iv] Peterman, A., Palermo, T. and Bredenkamp, C. (2011). Estimates and Determinants of Sexual Violence Against Women in the Democratic Republic of Congo. American Journal of Public Health, 101 (6), p. 1063.
[v] BBC News Magazine (2013). Denis Mukwege: The rape surgeon of DR Congo. [online] Retrieved from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-21499068 [Accessed: 21 Sep 2013].