I really can’t remember who first told me that the Democratic Republic of the Congo is called the “Rape Capital of the World.” It stuck with me though. I have come to love the DRC through my many travels. I’ve met so many gracious, talented people there and call many “friends.” In some parts, the land is so vivid and lush that I’m reminded of holy writings of an ancient garden. And although I reject the label as a total “capture” of this place I’ve come to love, I am now looking more deeply into how this name came about.
In many parts of the world, rape is used quite effectively as a weapon of war – violent and brutal crimes committed against women while family and community are made to watch. If the woman survives the attack, she becomes a visual reminder of powerlessness against the invaders who committed the crime. She is sent out and isolated – abandoned and left to fend for herself. Her family is left behind, never to be respected as they once may have been. Logically, the family and community understands it is not the woman’s fault, yet the mantle she now bears makes it too difficult for them to look upon her again.
United Methodist Women (UMW) in the DRC are helping to bring victims out of the shadows and back into community – sharing love and hope. When I was in Kindu, I was inspired by Mama Helene who is the chaplain of UMW – a short, slightly built woman of age whose eyes are bright with determination. Quite animatedly, she said, “We let them know that this was not their fault and that we love them. That God loves them.” UMW brings together members of the church who volunteer their time, offering professional counseling and skills training. Even after incomprehensible tragedy, women are coming to learn that all is not lost and are reclaiming themselves as unbroken.
Have you heard the word, “chabadza”? It means coming together with those who are already doing the work – offering your part – adding value. It’s a Shona word and my friends from Zimbabwe may add to the meaning.
I am joining the work of these women in East Congo. I will do my part.
Note: The reference to Tamar comes from 2 Samuel 13.