Here I am again sitting on beautiful Lake Kivu staring out at the water. It is our last day in Goma and tomorrow morning we take a fast boat to Bukavu. It rained hard last night, roads are flooded, but all seems still and peaceful now, at least from where I sit. Not the case all around me. Trying to make sense of it all. The surrounding pain, suffering and loss exists on a scale that is hard to comprehend. Years of war, neglect, sexual violence, corruption, even destruction by volcano…when does it stop?
Through all this, the people of Goma seem to have their eye on the future. Gathering strength through a clear recognition of the realty of their history and present day circumstances, there is a determination to change what seems unchangeable. A daunting task. But a necessary one. Yesterday morning we traveled with Sons of Congo to the men’s prison in Goma. An experience I will never forget. We were led into the center of the open yard and sat down surrounded by 1000 convicted criminals and rapists. No security in sight. Surreal. These very men who had caused so much pain, destruction and destroyed their families and communities proceeded (to my surprise) to play music. With three drummers and a sole electric guitar surrounded by the voices of hundreds, I heard some of the most profoundly expressive and soulful sounds I’d ever heard. The sonic joy and positive energy that flowed through that yard was starkly contrasted with the pain and suffering these men had caused. Joy and pain, side by side. I thought to myself, the music had to be coming from a place inside that was good. Though, a place too closed off and constricted to have guided them away from what they had done. This startling co-existence between extreme pain and joy really made an impression on me. A tent full of english students, who we later visited, were all smiles even though they are living with the aftermath inflicted on them by the past. Still, they were energized and motivated to take control of their lives and build a new Congo for their and future generations. Very inspiring. Each one of these children seeing life in a completely new way, getting an education and breaking the cycles that have plagued their community for so long, is one step towards change. Pinpoints of light in the darkness. A spark among the ashes.
There is hope.