Our day began by listening to two women who are advisors on gender violence for the United Nations in Congo. They spoke about the importance of men respecting women and for women to see themselves as capable of doing great things for Congo. One speaker, Marie Antoinette Saya said, “A one winged bird cannot fly. To soar as a nation, men and women need to work together.” As I looked around the room, I could see that the girls were smiling and the boys were restless; challenged by what was being shared. Before the session ended, a women came forward to share her story. It was the most horrific testimony I had ever heard.
(caution, the following is graphic)
She began by sharing how a militia group of Tutsi’s came to her home and chopped her husband into pieces in front of she and her daughters before rapping her. Her story got worse from there. For the next thirty minutes she shared the pain and suffering she has faced and the physical issues she will carry for the rest of her life. She ended by telling the students about the work she does now to help women who have experienced the same trauma. As the story ended, a young man named Charles stood up and came forward. He told the crowd that he is a Tutsi and said that he would like to ask for forgiveness on behalf of his tribe. He asked if he could say the words, “I am sorry” in his native tongue so that the same language that was spoken by her rapists would now be spoken to ask for forgiveness. The women wept and said, “I forgive you.”
At that moment, dozens of boys and girls began to sob, uncontrollably. It was clear that the presence of God was in that tent. It seemed as though many of these students had never grieved the loss of their loved ones who had been killed. I found myself comforting several boys over the next half an hour, crying with them. It was a redemptive, holy moment. We ended our formal time together with singing and dancing. As one adult leader commented afterwards, “In Congo we sing and dance because it brings us joy. We let our pain go and remember that our hope is in God.”
For the rest of the day students spent time playing sports, participating in discussion groups and, in some cases, counseling sessions. What is being attempted at this conference has never been done before in Congo. It is only day two of the conference and God is already moving in a powerful way in this place. Please continue to pray for all involved and that the students will find healing and discover the future calling God has for them.
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