During a discussion when we first met, my beloved girlfriend referred to me as “cross-armed kangaroo”, her way of describing a habit I’ve harbored of closing myself off to certain ideas and potential truths.
Each time I arrive in Africa, I’m forced to wrestle with the fact that humanity here feels different from what I know of it. The kinks of being, at first seem more apparent here.
We ride on impossibly bumpy roads, staring at primitive constructions made from any and all available materials, mysteriously bonded together both incorporating and sitting atop the omnipresent black, igneous rocks - vestiges of an explosive Mount Nyiragongo, which less than 10 years ago leveled a good portion of this town. In the streets the scents of living, dying and rebirth occur to me more directly and unambiguously than my brain is used to. My heart breaks over the notion that the lush and gorgeous hills surrounding this beleaguered place contain bands of soldiers perpetrating unspeakable acts of violence against their brothers, sisters, parents and children. If it is possible, the fighting seems even less comprehensible in these magnificent environs, sparingly populated with beautiful, smiling Congolese villagers living simple lives and working long days just to feed themselves and their families.
There are survivors of the violence and of the hurdles endemic to life in eastern Congo today, whose stories I hear and find difficult to believe or accept simply because they are so different; so distant from my own. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the scale and complicated nature of the problems here, though when I “uncross”, I can see that the suffering is real and the resilience, unrivaled. Most importantly, the steps we’re taking together yield real results.
We are all are able to feel tremendous joy and acceptance among many of the people we’ve met on this journey. We also feel the disquieting anger, hatred and greed that fuels others, perpetuating a cycle of violence now responsible for five and half million deaths and tragic, life altering damage for millions of the living. The skin of society’s capsule is surprisingly soluble, and we should take heed that the water is never very far away.
Humanity is not different here in Africa, in the Middle East, or anywhere else in the world. Though it can seem as if we’re living in different times, with different understandings of the world around us, it is more apparent to me than ever that we are all a part of one another, inextricably interconnected and responsible for the well being of the whole.
JWW seeks to heal those most affected by the current situation. We also strive to support society itself so that the next generation knows a different, more peaceful life. The people I am coming to know here in Goma are those most actively engaged in that healing work. I am touched by my new friends’ compassion and dedication; awed by their bravery and deeply impressed with their ingenuity, understanding and effectiveness. I am blessed by the prospect of working with all of you at home to support them, and together making the kind of change that I know to be possible when my inner marsupial is able to untangle itself. I hope you’ll join me.