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Praying with Refugees in Congo
01 February 2012

Regardless of nationality, race, religion, socio-economic status or gender, every human has a fundamental right to a decent life and to be able to live in security, peace and dignity. (JRS Grands Lacs)
By Romy Q. Cagatin, SVD and Inés Oleaga Castellet, ACI
Jesuit Refugee Service Great Lakes

(Goma, Democratic of the Congo ) February 1, 2012 — The world’s deadliest war and the widespread use of rape as a weapon of war are both in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). For almost two decades, the people of eastern DRC have been entangled in a web of armed groups — from foreign rebels to the Congo’s own army — who prey on Congolese civilians and, with collaboration from governments and multinational corporations, strip the country of its immense natural wealth.

An estimated two million persons have been internally displaced in the DRC by armed conflicts. The situation is characterized by chronic and rampant sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) against women and girls, which remains one of the biggest challenges.

Caught between an abusive Congolese army and predatory rebel groups and an array of other militias, tens of thousands of Congolese continue to be displaced.

Your Reflections

Regardless of nationality, race, religion, socio-economic status or gender, every human has a fundamental right to a decent life and to be able to live in security, peace and dignity. Unfortunately, this is a far distant dream than a reality for hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Tate Hélène is one of them. She is an elderly woman who is an IDP in Bukombo Camp, a village close to the territory controlled by different armed groups. She arrived here with her daughter and three grandchildren.

One night, while in the transit center waiting for small parcel of land where she could build her makeshift hut, she suffered a stroke and became half paralyzed. On that same night, gunshots were heard in the camp. Everybody panicked and ran for cover in all directions. She also wanted to run but she couldn’t move.

She is in a dilemma as to whether to abandon her life or to continue living, even if her future looks too bleak. JRS staff working in the District of Masisi tries to encourage her. She shows her beautiful smile every time they visit her.

The story of Tate Hélène reflects that of the millions of IDPs in this region. They have one sublime wish in life: to be able to return to their villages and to be able to live in security, peace and dignity.

Please Join us in Reflection:

Suggested Reading for Prayer

Psalm 22

My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
Why so far from my call for help, from my cries of anguish?
My God, I call by day, but you do not answer; by night, but I have no relief.
Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the glory of Israel.
In you our ancestors trusted; they trusted and you rescued them.
To you they cried out and they escaped; in you they trusted and were not disappointed.
But I am a worm, hardly human, scorned by everyone, despised by the people.
All who see me mock me; they curl their lips and jeer; they shake their heads at me:
"You relied on the LORD--let him deliver you; if he loves you, let him rescue you."
Yet you drew me forth from the womb, made me safe at my mother's breast.
Upon you I was thrust from the womb; since birth you are my God.
Do not stay far from me, for trouble is near, and there is no one to help...

... LORD, do not stay far off; my strength, come quickly to help me.
Deliver me from the sword, my forlorn life from the teeth of the dog.
Save me from the lion's mouth, my poor life from the horns of wild bulls.
Then I will proclaim your name to the assembly; in the community I will praise you:
"You, who fear the LORD, give praise! All descendants of Jacob give honor;
Show reverence, all descendants of Israel!
For God has not spurned or disdained the misery of this poor wretch,
Did not turn away from me, but heard me when I cried out.
I will offer praise in the great assembly; my vows I will fulfill before those who fear him.
The poor will eat their fill; those who seek the LORD will offer praise.
May your hearts enjoy life forever!"
All the ends of the earth will worship and turn to the LORD;
All the families of nations will bow low before you.
For kingship belongs to the LORD, the ruler over the nations.
All who sleep in the earth will bow low before God;
All who have gone down into the dust will kneel in homage.
And I will live for the LORD; my descendants will serve you.
The generation to come will be told of the Lord,
that they may proclaim to a people yet unborn the deliverance you have brought.