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Congolese women march to end violence against women

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In solidarity with thousands of women who have been sexually assaulted in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, five Mennonite Congolese women joined an international rally of women calling for peace, demilitarization, and an end to violence against women.

This global group of women gathered Oct. 17 for the World March of Women 2010 in Bukavu, the capital of Congo’s South Kivu province. The preceding week’s activities included speeches, seminars, cultural events, and opportunities to fellowship with other women.

Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) sponsored the women’s participation to encourage their involvement and interest in the broader church, ecumenical connections, and peace and justice issues, said Suzanne Lind, MCC representative in Congo.

In 2009, an estimated 15,000 women were raped in eastern Congo. There, multiple rebel groups and national security forces vie for access to the area’s wealth of minerals – gold, tin, coltan, diamonds – many of which are needed in manufacturing and electronics industries.

“The primary purpose of rape (within Congo’s war) is to destroy the strongest ties of solidarity within communities, leaving them easy to displace and control,” Lind said. “The land then quickly becomes available for mining and the forests for cutting by the strongest group.”

The road leading to Mwenga was lined with women and children sitting on the ground, wearing black, and wanting to tell their stories. At each village, the delegation of Protestant women, including the five Mennonite women, stopped to talk with the people and to console the women.

“What was once just something we heard about has now become very real to us,” said Fifi Pombo Madikela, a Mennonite Brethren pastor and women’s leader in Kinshasa, Congo’s capital. “We heard firsthand stories of massacres and terrible murders.

“We know we must work hard now to teach peace to children and young people so that this vicious form of war will end,” Madikela said.

Madikela, who has already done extensive research on violence against women in her country, said she will use this experience to inform her writing and teaching at the Christian University of Kinshasa. “We will never forget the joy of standing together to resist evil,” she said, “and we will continue the work.”

Emily Will, freelance writer from Frederick, Md., for MCC

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