Friday, November 03, 2006

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: We were the unlikeliest lot

Friends --

Here is a report from the recent Christian Peacemaker Teams Women's Delegation to the Democractic Republic of Congo. You can find relevant maps on our blog at, embedded in the item I sent previously announcing this delegation.

Matt Guynn
On Earth Peace

CPTnet ~
1 November 2006

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: We were the unlikeliest lot

by Unjin Lee
[The author is a member of a delegation to the Democratic Republic of Congo sponsored by Christian Peacemaker Teams. Delegates will return home 4 November 2006.]

"We were the unlikeliest lot and that is precisely why God has chosen us."
-Desmond Tutu

How can one put words to the trauma we have been witness to during these last six days in Eastern Congo? We are a delegation of eleven women, representing families and communities in Canada, Kenya, Colombia, Congo and the United States. For some of us, our knowledge of the sexual violence perpetrated against women in Congo began only a few months ago, through web research, magazine articles, and news specials on Frontline and CNN. For two women on our delegation, this trip is a homecoming, a reunion with their motherland, a response to the hurting needs of their own people. For one woman of our delegation, these two weeks traveling throughout the Eastern region of Congo with an international group of women is an intensely raw confirmation that what she has been living and experiencing within her own community of Uvira-violence that has been happening all over Congo since conflict tore into the country ten years ago.

What exactly have we heard?

Women in Congo are being systematically raped as a weapon of warfare. Rebel militia, most specifically, the Rwandese refugees in Interhamwe, perpetrating an organized, gruesome violence against women and children in Congo. Terrazita, a forty-two-year old woman from Bunia-Kiri shared her story with us: "I was raped by the Interhamwe. My husband and son were murdered in front of me. I was forced to live with the Interhamwe in the forest as their sex slave." After one year and three months, the Interhamwe let Terrazita go. She crawled to safety because she could no longer walk. Terrazita has lost her uterus due to the internal injuries caused by these rapes. She lives alone with twelve children, four of whom are fathered by Interhamwe. She feels an acute burden of shame and ostracism.

I am certain that each of us believed this time in Congo would be challenging, painful, traumatic. But these words are not enough to describe what we hear in the voices and see in the eyes of Congolese women. There is rage. There is fear. There is confusion and loss. But the overarching message these Congolese women convey to us through their voices, their faces is that they are survivors and they want peace in their land. Over and over, the consistent message from rural women in Uvira to educated women in the city of Bukavu, has been a plea for peace.

One woman we met from the village of Bunia-Kiri stood up and said to us, "All we are asking for is peace, so that we can look like you [our delegation] are looking-shiny and healthy. Please fight for us to have the dignity that you have, which is a dignity that we deserve."


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