A day does not pass in East Congo without a woman being raped.
A Call for Justice
On April 27, 2018, thousands of women marched in Beni, East Congo, calling for an end to insecurity and massacres of civilians, while new cases of rape were reported by witnesses on the spot. The most recent case is that of April 20, 2018, in which four women were kidnapped and raped by Rebels ADF. Among the victims were two United Methodist women, according to Mother Justine Kavira, the president of Beni United Methodist Women.
Barefoot, with many dressed in black robes and wearing white scarves on their heads, these women waved calicoes on which were drawn drums containing blood, crosses and one could read: “Who will pay for the blood of the innocents in Eastern DRC?” and “We say no to sexual violence!” Marching side by side with others, United Methodist women are calling for peace.
Ms. Catherine Furaha, President of the Women Lawyers Association for the Defense of Women’s and Children’s Rights (FJDF), a local organisation in Beni, said that their organization has recorded 343 new cases of sexual and gender based violence in the far north (Beni, Butembo and Lubero) since January 2017. Rape comes in first, representing up to 85% of the crimes.
Raising a United Voice
To counter this suffering, the United Methodist Church of East Congo launched an awareness campaign (Women Arise) via television to give hope to survivors of rape, and to call on the public to denounce these brutal acts.
This year, Bishop Gabriel Unda began sending text messages to religious leaders in the most affected areas with the support of Harper Hill Global, and United Methodist Women. Clergy retrieve these messages, and add them to Sunday sermons – as was the case of Uvira District Superintendent Rev Dumas Balaganire and Rev. Justin Bakenge of Circuit Beni City this Sunday 22/04/2018.
Rev. Balaganire said, “The message I receive helps me prepare also my Sunday sermon that I share with my community. I encourage these kinds of work because we will gradually decrease the stigma, especially to the survivors with rapes in our part of the country.”
Mother Justine Kavira said: “The message that I get in my phone for stigma gives me hope and it comforts me because of the Bible verses I receive from our Bishop Gabriel Unda.”
By Philippe Kituka Lolonga, Beni, Democratic Republic of Congo.