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Agencies reach out in the Congo

GOMA, Congo ( A representative of Aid to the Church in Need is affirming that the Congolese victims and perpetrators of violence need affirmation of their dignity and worth, not abortion and contraception.

Head of the aid agency’s Africa desk Christine du Coudray underlined the words of United States Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, who spoke against sexual violence in a recent visit to the Congo.

The aid worker said Mrs Clinton’s visit to the Kivu region in the east of the country “refocused the world’s attention on a region that had been, to an unbelievable extent, forgotten”.

A press release from the agency noted about 7500 cases of rape and sexual violence in that region last year.

Ms du Coudray said that although there are United Nations troops throughout the country, they often arrive too late.

“This is the recurring complaint of the ordinary Congolese people, who have again and again been victims of massacres, mass rape and bestial atrocities of every kind,” he said.

“For the rest of the time, in their ordinary daily lives, the people only have the Catholic Church to help them.”

The aid worker reported that families who took in refugees from war-torn areas were supported only by the Church, not by the United Nations.

Ursuline Sister Espérance Hamuli said religious orders were among the forces of the Church who were aiding the Congolese people.

“We want to rescue the young people who are in danger of being wiped out, and we want to cry out still louder on behalf of those who have no voice, so that our people can know that there is a way out of their suffering, a way to life and not only of violence,” she said.

Sr Hamuli is one of 37 superiors of religious congregations in the region who are working with Aid to the Church in Need in what Ms du Coudray called “a kind of martyrdom”.

She said one nun told her: “We are in solidarity with the people. When they are tortured, we sisters are also tortured; if solidarity means dying with them, we die with them; if it means living with them, we live with them.”

The agency is working to reach out to children as well as to soldiers, to “promote respect for human life and dignity”.

Ms Du Coudray said, “In a region plagued by veritable orgies of violence, this kind of apostolate can truly save human lives.”

She said that in the region, her agency was virtually alone in the commitment to build a “culture of life”.

“Many NGOs think they are helping by offering women abortions, the ‘morning-after pill’ and artificial contraceptives, but Africans see these ideas as alien to them,” she said.

“They understand at once that this is not a culture of life, but rather a culture of death.”


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