United Methodist Women in the East Congo Episcopal Area are helping rape survivors emerge from misplaced blame and isolation. In this place often called the “rape capital of the world,” brutal sexual assaults are not crimes against one person – they are crimes against family and community – a weapon of war that cuts deep and wide.
Culturally, the assault survivors bear the burden of shame and become outcasts, living in isolation at a time when they most need support and care. Children suffer in their absence – struggling to understand why their lives changed so swiftly, and needing the one who is often known as the backbone of the family.
I traveled to Kindu in September, and met with those who are reaching out to help.
Mama Helene is an older woman whose face shares the signs of an earnest, hard-lived life. Her strength was visible as she pounded dirt and cement into the form of bricks. Standing amidst young men also making these bricks, Mama Helene, who serves as chaplain of United Methodist Women, spoke about the ministry she envisions. She shared a story about a woman who was raped by “militia.” The survivor’s body was torn and bruised and she needed medical care. Able to help her, Mama Helene’s eyes turned from anger to a sparkle of hope as she began to talk about the development of this program that will help others. “We will share with them God’s love,” she said.
What draws me into this work is that “God’s love” is made beautifully and counter-culturally tangible. Rejecting societal shame, United Methodist Women want to bring more survivors “out of the forests” to provide physical, psychological, and spiritual care through professionals, and help these women gain new income-generating skills for potential life on their own. Cultural change will come as these women emerge from living in the shadows to be reunited with community and family – becoming accepted, loved and respected once again.
East Congo Episcopal Area isn’t alone – they are supported in this initiative by their partners in the Tennessee, Memphis and Cal-Pac UMC Annual Conferences, and by friends everywhere.
Help Congo Women Arise (https://www.tnumc.org/engage-in-mission/mercy-and-mission-ministries/mission-in-east-congo/ ) to do this ministry with, and for one another. Your gift will go toward building transitional housing, and a center for counseling and skills-building. Together, let’s share the love –