JWW IN CONGO

Bearing Witness

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John Fishel - Looking Back on Congo

It has been almost two years since my last visit to Africa. Traveling a second time with Jewish World Watch has been something I looked forward to doing since 2009.  Having been involved with the organization almost since the beginning has been a privilege.  During the past two weeks I have pondered what I could write that would be meaningful and express why I believe support of the organization is so essential for members of the Jewish community. I have refrained from writing a blog because the experiences of this trip to Rwanda and Congo have been very emotional and again because my fellow travelers have so eloquently expressed what we have seen and done. When I began this piece, I was sitting in the location of the film” Hotel Rwanda”  in Kigali, capital of the country where a genocide and world inaction in 1994 created a catastrophe. We were prepared to depart for home.I thought it was time to witness what I saw and heard , to add my voice.

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Jewish World Watch- Thoughts on Our Journey

This journey to the Congo has not been easy.  Not physically.  Not mentally.  And certainly not emotionally.  There is so much to be done, it becomes overwhelming.   I can understand the burnout that occurs among relief workers, and NGOs.  Sustaining oneself during this process is as important as caring for others, and few really develop the staying power to last over years.  It’s tough.  Really tough.  The bad days are horrible, and the milder days carry a sadness of their own. 

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Stephanie Liss- Bukavu

Child Soldiers - Another woman’s perspective…

“… Are  you mother…?”, he asked me, as he moved his arms across his chest as though rocking a baby.  There were six boys together, and each of them called out to me, “ mother…?”  Sadly, I told them ,”No.  I am not.”   And as sad as I was to say those words, even sadder were they to hear them.  “Mother,” was a word they had not spoken in a very long time.  For some, a word they had all but forgotten. 

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Diana Buckhantz - Praying With Our Feet

We are on our way home. It has been an amazing trip. Throughout this trip, we have discussed the complexity of the problems here. It does seem as though Congo is in a better place than when we were her last time. It seems that there is less conflict although it is by no means over. The conversations between ourselves and with the organizations we have met revolve more around the evolution of the civil society. We discuss how to help Congo heal; how to change the culture that has allowed the atrocities to women and also to the boys; how to stop the impunity. Our conversations have been endless and will continue long after we are home.     So many extraordinary Congolese people are working to reshape Congo and turn it into the country it could be. The work is slow but there are so many tiny organizations doing thoughtful and committed work. While each organization affects small groups of people, it is a start. And with the passion of these groups, I am certain the circles will expand and become concentric.   As I leave here and reflect on the work that Jewish World Watch has done and will do in the future, I feel so grateful to be involved with an organization that cares so deeply and steps into the fray. As Rabbi Schulweis always says, “you must pray with your feet.” inspired by Rabbi Schulweis and led by Janice, we do.

     

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Benjamin Arnow - Change Is In The Air

Tonight we fly home. Over the past two weeks I have heard so many stories of unimaginable pain and suffering from the people of Congo. I have also seen an incredible strength and determination to make things better. As a member and supporter of JWW for the past few years, this trip was an opportunity for me to put a face on the stories I had heard from afar. From the comfort of home. A chance to connect and see it for myself. A chance to really understand.

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Diana Buckhantz - It’s Hard Being A Mother In Congo

It’s hard to be a mother in Congo.  If you have a daughter, you live with a constant threat that she may be raped. If you have a son, you worry that he may be kidnapped by the army or one of the militias and turned into a child soldier. All mothers everywhere worry about being able to feed their children or having the ability to send them to school but mothers here have worries we can not even comprehend.  

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Diana Buckhantz - Reporting From Bukavu

Faraja is 22 years old. She is petite with haunting dark eyes and a quiet demeanor. She speaks softly so I have to strain to hear her. Looking at her, she appears to me to be somewhat timid. I could almost imagine that she is another victim of the conflict in Congo. But when she speaks, I understand why she is here. “I have always wanted to be a journalist. Even as a young girl, I would steal my father’s radio to listen to the news. He would punish me but it was worth it.”  

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