I sat with a woman yesterday who due to the trauma of rape, was nearly mute.
She’d reply quietly when I asked her basic things but mostly, her lips remained tightly sealed as we sat on the edge of a plastic covered bed at a hospital here in Congo.
I leaned forward to grab her hand and as the mattress crinkled below me, the woman next to her whispered that the girl was from Beni.
Unfortunately, that makes sense.
Beni is an area just north from where we are in Eastern Congo. A trader’s city parallel to Uganda.
There was very little I could understand from her. She was raped. How, where, when, I don’t really know. Her fistula was torn, a tear that only occurs during violent sexual assault or traumatic prolonged labor. I know she comes from Beni, whether her family is alive, I don’t know. How she got down to Goma, I don’t know. Whether she wants to go back home… I don’t know.
Beni right now is a target of repeated conflict and violent attacks. They estimate roughly 30 people every week are being slaughtered, hacked to death by machetes.
The more I heard the stories the more everything stirred inside of me that we had to do something.
Arriving back in Congo, our Pastor was returning from two funerals up in the area and flew in the same day we did. The stories were fresh on his mind and my heart was eager to hear.
He uncovered layers to the conflict that helped me slightly comprehend the silence from our dear one in the hospital.
“I met many who were raped in Beni. A whole group of them meeting together. Rebels came to their family’s fields as they worked the farm. They killed their whole family with the blows of a machete. To the neck, to the chest. Not even babies less than a year old were spared. They killed everyone, except these women. The women, after witnessing the atrocities, were then raped. Just when they thought the nightmare was almost over, the soldier would ask for a drink, and then dinner. Through the pain, through the horror, the women were forced to prepare a meal for the rebels to eat.”
My heart aches.
I sit in the dark with my computer on my lap, my housemates in bed and I breathe in the breath of my papa God.
A week back in Africa and we’ve had a mini roller coaster ride of emotions. We’ve heard so many war stories on so many levels. The group of women that our head Congolese director met are still meeting but are in need of something more. Counseling? Jobs?
I think of the eyes of the woman in the hospital. I think of the crackling plastic and how it was the loudest noise that she made.
I was born into such privilege. I am a woman, yet I have a voice. I have rights.
My brain has been on overdrive with so many thoughts about the rapes and the beheadings I could go in so many directions at this stage but instead, for this post I’ll turn back to my papa. It feels like the stories have landed in my heart but not bruised it like they do so often.
It feels like I’m safely tucked in the heart of God as I go from injustice to injustice, feeling the pain but then giving it back to Jesus to bear. I try to use it as fuel for the future and my return to the west (end of July) rather than let it shift to anger or a hardened spirit.
Processing injustice is always a journey of “passing through the valley” but never remaining there. May the women of Beni, those the direct target of such horrific violations, also pass through that valley and find Jesus and hope and laughter in the midst and on the other side.
Thank you for following my journey. We’re posting every Tuesday on our Justice Rising blog if you’re interested in different voices sharing with different topics from our work in war zones. It’s more project focused than emotions focused I’d say. ;)