Received in audience this morning by Pope Francis at the Vatican, the Congolese gynecologist awarded in 2018 for his commitment to the treatment of women and girls victims of war rape stresses in this interview that he hopes that the Pope’s visit to Congo will contribute to the end of the conflict and the humanitarian crisis in the country.
Alessandro Di Bussolo and Oliver Bonnell – Vatican City
“The Pope’s visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo is a strong signal”, he comes “to suffer with the suffering Congolese people” and “we hope that his presence will contribute to making the world aware of the drama we are experiencing today” and that “with your prayers and your voice can contribute to putting an end to this tragedy, about which little is said here in Europe”. 2018 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Denis Mukwege, a 67-year-old Congolese gynecologist and human rights activist, addresses reporters minutes after his audience with Pope Francis in the library of the Apostolic Palace. In a tweet shortly after, he explained that in the half-hour private conversation with the Pope they spoke of “the humanitarian crisis in the DRC and the imperative of justice, the consolidation of democracy and the establishment of peace.”
Custodial in his hospital in Bukavu
At the meeting, the doctor told Francisco what he is trying to do at the Panzi Hospital that he founded almost 25 years ago, in his Bukawu, and where he has lived under surveillance for 10 years to prevent attacks. Save the lives and future of women, girls and even little girls who are victims of rape and sexual violence, used as a weapon of war by the militias of the groups that fight against the Kinshasa government.
“Unfortunately we are treating the third generation of women”
From North Kivu, where the last massacre of civilians took place at the end of November, thousands of refugees flee to the center of the country, but women risk being raped even in refugee camps if they go to wash in the river. For this reason, during the three days of meetings and recognitions in Naples and his province, Mukwege asked for help to buy hygiene kits for women and girls, so that they are not in danger if they leave the camp. Here is the interview granted by the Nobel Prize winner to Olivier Bonnel, from the French newsroom:
“This visit was a special grace for me, an honor to have met a man of faith, a man of peace, a person who works for peace, justice and inclusion throughout the world and in today’s particular context, with multiple crises. His visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo is a strong signal, it does nothing more than show the Congolese the hope and solidarity that the Pope shows for our people, for a people wounded for more than 25 years. I believe We Congolese hope that your presence will simply contribute to making the world aware of the drama that the Congolese people are experiencing today. We also hope that with your prayers and your voice you can help put an end to this tragedy, about which little is said here in Europe. .
Can the Holy See and papal diplomacy, but also religions more broadly, do something to contribute to the return of peace in the region?
The Church has a very important role and I believe that the prophetic word of the Church can make a big difference. A Church that is silent when people suffer is a Church out of place. And I believe that the most important role of the Church is to suffer with the people who suffer. I believe that the Pope’s visit is part of this logic of coming to suffer with the suffering Congolese people. Therefore, it is the prophetic voice of the Church that can make a big difference.
A few words about women, Dr. Mukwege, you do a lot for them, through your hospital. What is the situation of Congolese women today in this terrible conflict? I think then that he intends to develop his activities beyond Panzi….
In fact, today we are treating the third generation of women and this is what hurts us the most. That is why we ask the international press to talk about this problem, because what counts is not the number of women raped, but the way in which it is done. Destroying children, destroying babies, destroying women in front of their family, in their community, simply means destroying a whole community. I believe that today Panzi tries to work so that our activities go beyond assistance, trying to bring our assistance services closer to patients. For this reason, we are multiplying the number of care centers that we call “one-stop centers”, in which we offer holistic care, that is, medical, surgical, psychosocial, socioeconomic and legal care.
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The Pope receives the Nobel Peace Prize: the visit to Congo will be significant for peace – Vatican News