Sunday, February 04, 2007

DRC Journal: Entry 3

I spent some time at a child soldier repatriation center earlier in the week. Hundreds of young boys are brought here after having been rescued or escaped from enforced service in various militias. So many had stories of committing unspeakable atrocities...some could not even bear to remember their experiences. Talking and joking with them in my very limited Swahili it was hard to imagine these young, bright faces had seen and participated in so much violence. Childhoods stolen, innocence lost...what will become of them?

Yesterday I spent the day with the staff of Copare, a coalition of local peace and reconciliation organizations. I learned so much from these amazing Congolese human rights defenders about conflict resolution and trauma healing. They spent hours helping me understand some of the intricacies of the issues of violence, poverty, and politics in DRC. They were thrilled that I had come to see and learn for myself. They encouraged me that my experiences "on the ground" in DRC would help make me a much better advocate for peace in Congo when I return to the U.S. I especially connected with Pierre Zihindula, a kind and gentle father of 9 who along with his work in facilitating community dialogues for reconciliation is effecting social change from the roots up by challenging gender norms in his own family. He and his wife are raising their boys and girls with a genuine understanding of equality and respect in the face of cultural assumptions that devalue women. His story moved me with a sense of him I see the peacemaker I aspire to be.

Tomorrow I will head south to the Uvira region over 7 hours worth of horrible roads. I will be traveling with my friend Lisa, founder of Run For Congo Women, who is also in Bukavu now. We will spend a week in the bush visiting rural areas to meet participants in the Women For Women International empowerment program that have been sponsored as a result of Run For Congo Women. I will have the opportunity to meet many sisters who were sponsored by the Seattle Hike For Congo Women I organized last fall. I look forward to passing on greetings from those of you who pledged or participated in the hike. I also get to meet Furaha, the woman I personally sponsor and correspond with.

On February 11th I will head to Kinshasa and hope to post again sometime that week.
Kwa Heri! ...bye for now


Anonymous Mona said...

It is amazing and humbling to me the hope that survives. I think hope is critical to avoid bitterness; the souring effects of bitterness are hardening of the heart and a numbing to violence. Our world is blessed that there are people like you reaching out to offer hope!
Stay safe...
Mona :-)

8:21 PM  
Anonymous Sierra said...

Dearest Tonya, I'm so moved by your reflections of your trip so far and am thrilled to hear of the many relationships that you are building. I hope you can tuck each person's story into your heart to share with all of us upon your return. My thoughts and prayers are with you, and your church community has been lifting you up each week. I miss you and wish you safety and many blessed moments. Peace to you, Sierra :)

11:14 PM  

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