|Our Lady of the Congo|
Several years ago, we had a wonderful young priest with us for a year- from the Congo. Before he came, people told us we would love him, as the people of this country are very cheerful, almost child-like. We found this to be true and loved Father Jean Pierre's homilies especially when he sang to us.
Having had Father here (he still returns to us for his annual retreat) we took an interest in his country of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo), and especially these days when the blood seems to run so frequent. Even though Christianity is the majority religion (50% are Catholic)), one wonders what these people, at least their leaders, have been taught.
The Second Congo War, beginning in 1998, devastated the country and is sometimes referred to as the "African world war" because it involved nine African nations and twenty armed groups. Despite the signing of peace accords in 2003, fighting continued in the east of the country in 2007. There, the prevalence of rape and other sexual violence has been described as the worst in the world. The war is the world's deadliest conflict since the Chinese Civil War, killing 5.4 million people since 1998. More than 90% were not killed in combat, dying instead from malaria, diarrhea, pneumonia and malnutrition, aggravated by displaced populations living in unsanitary and over-crowded conditions that lacked access to shelter, water, food and medicine. Forty seven percent of those deaths were children under five. Until today the ongoing conflicts exacerbate the exhaustion of the country's great agricultural potential. Conflict for control of the mineral wealth is behind some of the most violent atrocities
On September 30th of this year SISTER ANGELIQUE NAMAIKA (age 46) was presented with the Nansen Refugee Award Medal in Geneva for her extraordinary work in the DRC. Established in 1954, the Nansen Refugee Award is awarded annually by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to an individual, group, or organization in recognition of outstanding service to the cause of refugees, displaced or stateless people.
Having been displaced by the LRA herself, Sister Angelique knows what it is like to flee one’s home, and she thinks the best remedy is empowerment.
“We have to help women to become independent, to support themselves and their families without being obliged to depend on their husbands. That way they learn their true value”.
In the Center for Reintegration and Development, where Sister Angelique works, she individually counsels women and girls who have been traumatized, teaches them the national language, Lingala, and shows them how to sow and bake. There is no electricity, no running water, and no paved roads.
But she is inspired by the Bible and by a German nun who came to visit her chapel to help the sick when she was nine years old. “There was so much work to do, the nun did not have time to eat or rest. I told myself I will do everything I can to become like her and to help her, so that she may rest”.
“When I see children without parents it touches me, because I grew up in a loving home with my family all around me. So despite the poor conditions I do my best to help. I am not discouraged, even if resources are low...God is my strength”.
|With Pope Francis|