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Maryknoll in the Congo
Non-violent Peacemaking in the Congo

CongoCONGO- April 3, 2009 -- In December 2008, Maryknoll Sister Rosemarie Milazzo joined three other members of the Christian Peacemaking Team (CPT) for three months of nonviolent peacmaking work in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Here is her report.

  On arrival in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, we met with church leaders, representatives of relief and human rights organizations, UN officials, governmental agencies and mining workers.  The CPT team is an ecumenical group of peacemakers:  Jane is a Quaker from Canada. Wendy, a development worker from Chicago, is a Mennonite. Cliff, an organic farmer from Indiana, is with the Church of the Brethren. When Wendy left after one month, Andrea, a Mennonite who does immigration work in Canada also joined the team for the remaining two months. I was the fourth member of the team.

 We went to the town of Goma in the eastern part of the Congo. From there we reached out to outlying areas and neighborhoods to see how our presence could help. CPT met with many local NGO’s working for peace. We held seminars with the Quaker Peace Movement, worked in villages with parish groups, and met with UN officials. With all of these, we shared our non-violent way of peacemaking through direct action. Goma is a town surrounded by a volcanic mountain and many hills. There is rain to produce enough food for all if there wasn’t war. People could not get to their fields because of the danger. Otherwise, Goma has been called the bread basket of  Congo.
The Congo, a nation state the size of western Europe has a great number of mineral resources: coltan, cassiterite, wolframite, cobalt, diamonds, gold. This has clearly been the motivation for greed among business people around the globe. The conflict here is clearly fueled by lust for Congo's riches.  Militarism and violence has impacted all of society, but especially the women and children. Schools are raided and youth taken for the battlefield. 
Amnesty International says that the ongoing humanitarian and human rights crisis in eastern Democratic RC has worsened rapidly.

We all saw a picture of this violence on the TV screens last November just before I left for Congo. The US also pours military and development aid into Rwanda, despite Rwandan government's active support of the devastating war in Eastern Congo.  In return for the aid dollars and military training, President Kagame of Rwanda lends soldiers to the war in Iraq and supports the US on Israel.  Most important, he holds the door to Congo's rich resources open, allowing the US to get what it wants out of Congo without direct involvement in the conflict.  This, of course, exacerbates the crisis, a crisis that has claimed 6 million lives since Rwanda's first invasion of Congo in l996.

At the SOA Watch last Fall, Jon Sobrino spoke of the crucified people of the world today.  My sense in Goma was that I was among these crucified people.  One of my neighbors, a university student, was shot to death one evening as he studied for the next day's classes.  I learned that he was the fourth university student this year to be killed. 
Rebecca, a young mother, was raped by 14 men after they killed her husband in front of her.  They also raped and impregnated her two teenage daughters.   After surgery, and some healing, Rebecca began to help other women who had experienced similar trauma.  Then, seven years after the original incident, she was again raped by 4 rebel soldiers.  Yet, when I met her, she showed me her ledger listing the names and situations of victims of rape who had come to her home for help.  She now has 11 children of rape victims that she is housing as the families of the victims have refused to take the children.

Young boys are taken from their homes  or from schools for training for the battlefield.  Young girls are often taken for wives of the militia groups.  My neighbor had 11 children and she hardly slept at night as she always feared that one of her children might be taken.  In fact, one evening, her home was surrounded by militia and they took 4 of her children with them.  She, her husband and remaining children and neighbors all ran after the kidnappers and were able to rescue the 4 children.  However, sleep is difficult for her now, worrying that it will happen again.

When we visited the Internally Displaced People's camps,  we heard the stories of these refugees.  Women told stories of husbands being killed as they were running.  One woman told that she had to leave 3 different camps before she reluctantly came to this camp as she was still searching for her missing two children 6 and 8 years old who had been lost as she ran. Another woman told of going for firewood in the camp and being taken and raped by rebels who entered the camp from the forest. Indeed these were the crucified people Sobrino spoke of in Georgia at the SOA.

Being a Maryknoll Sister on the team was especially gifting for me.  I have already spent years in Kenya and Tanzania and so I was excited to be returning to Africa.  I also knew the local language of the people, Swahili.  That helped the team on many occasions, but it was especially helpful to me in meeting people.  The language of the government is French, and one member of the team, from Canada, knew French, so we managed well.        

After three months in Congo, the team wrote our evaluation and proposed a return to Congo.  We have been invited by Synergie (a group started by Justine Masika after she herself was abused) to help women who have been raped, by Groupe Martin Luther King to accompany people in the situation through non-violent action, and by World Relief to help with the mobilization of post war communities.

Rosemarie Milazzo, MM

The Congo, a nation state the size of western Europe has a great number of mineral resources: coltan, cassiterite, wolframite, cobalt, diamonds, gold. 

This has clearly been the motivation for greed among business people around the globe.