Posts tagged Africa
Posts tagged Africa
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.
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.
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.
We know of the rapes and the horrible acts of sexual violence against the women and children here in the Congo, but knowing of it is one thing – to bear witness to the aftermath is quite another. Even though we are at the end of this part of our journey together, I understand that we are here not only to help and to offer comfort and solace, but to bear witness to these crimes.
Anyone who knows me is well aware of the fact that I am not often at a loss for words. But this week, having sat face to face with more than 100 boys, aged 8-18, who had been liberated from various Congolese militias within the past 90 days, and indeed, I am speechless. “I was on my way home from school when the Mai Mai fighters jumped out of the bushes, grabbed me and carried me deep into the forest” reported one 10 year old boy. He was 8 when he was abducted, given a uniform and a gun, and forced to kill for the Mai Mai.
We have seen the women, and we have heard their stories. At times it has been enough to simply feel the depth of pain in their eyes, and as I share these moments with them, I wonder – “ Who are these men who have so little regard for the life of a woman? For the life of a child? What would I feel if I were to look into their eyes, and what would I see…? These questions were frightening to me until the moment when my answers came…
We’ve entered Goma Prison, gone on site visits to programs in villages outside the city, interviewed a former child soldier and a young woman who was a victim of sexual violence when her village was attacked, taken the fast boat to Bukavu, done site visits at 3 different villages in the hills surrounding this city on the southern end of Lake Kivu, visited the General Hospital and seen 2 different programs within the city confines. It’s exhausting and heartbreaking and heartwarming all at the same time. Take a few minutes to read some of the posts here that further describe where we’ve been and what we’ve been doing. Every one of them is elegantly written and deeply touching. This is one amazing JWW team…
It is 8AM as we enter the men’s prison in Goma, a massive concrete
structure towering over the stone and cardboard huts that make up the
city. The stench is overpowering as we cross the threshold. We are
ushered into the courtyard and led to a row of seats in the middle of
1200 prisoners. The scene is virtually indescribable. We are surrounded
by men, many of whom perpetrate the sexual violence about which we have heard so much.
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.
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?