Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Deadliest Weapon of War: RAPE

"to loose the chains of injustice...to set the oppressed free" Isaiah 58:6
   
In war, we often think the deadliest weapons are those that kill the body. The world will never forget Hiroshima, the first city to be destroyed by a nuclear weapon killing possibly over 100,000.  And we will never forget 911, though we were not under an official war but the nearly 3,000 deaths left the country devastated and under the state of extreme fear. Though the fighting mechanisms of these wars left thousands to hundreds of thousands dead bodies, I propose the deadliest weapon of war is Rape where the target is not the body but the soul.

Rape is an act of extreme violence expressed through sex. It leaves its victims feeling completely helpless and debilitated. When rape is used as a weapon of war it's usage is quite strategic, as an atomic bomb, its intent is to annihilate and destroy any sign of life.  You may be wondering how exactly does rape accomplish its objective in war?

Well walk with me for a minute. Imagine a woman living in a small village in DR Congo, this village has no modern conveniences. This woman has 10 children because there is no such thing as family planning or a woman's rights to use contraceptives or to say no.  Water is retrieved from a well, miles away before the sun even rises. She works the farm and her harvest is sold to send maybe a couple of her children to school and to feed them. She cooks from scratch every single day, a process that takes hours. To sell her produce, she spends hours in the market only to make a dollar or two a day. This woman's contribution to her family is invaluable; you can say she is the backbone holding her family together.

Now imagine in this same village in the DR Congo, war strikes, soldiers come in and take 10 of these women and drag them into the bush raping them countless times and when they have finished "killing" these women, they send them back to their village. Please tell me, is the woman the only one who has "died" in this village? How do you think the husbands feel, not being able to protect their wives?  There is nothing more devastating to a man then not being able to protect his woman. Who else in the community has died? How about the children? What then happens to them? Often times, they’re also victims of sexual violence. How about the other women in the village? Do they feel safe to go to the well? The market? Everyone is living under a constant state of fear, anger and shame. Who do they turn to?  And to escape their pain, they do not accept these women back into their community. That village has died from this deadly weapon of war. This weapon of war has the potential of killing an entire nation, like a nuclear weapon, one village at a time.

The reality is: this is the story of many women living in the DR Congo. I’ve met a few of them; their faces are etched in my brain. It tears me up inside to even think that right now there is a group of women on the other side of the world suffering from this deadly weapon.  It is so easy to walk away feeling helpless and turn our back on these women but while visiting in the DR Congo, I saw signs of hope.

ALARM-Alarm is a ministry dedicated to seeing these women healed from their physical, emotional and spiritual wounds. Please visit their website to see how you can help: Alarm-inc.org

Panzi Hospital-Since 1999 this hospital has treated more than 25,000 gynecological cases; most are from reproductive trauma or sexual violence trauma. This hospital not only provides physical restoration by surgically repairing fistulas due to sexual violence. They also partner with groups that can help teach the women a craft during their hospital stay in order to start over and to be accepted back into their villages.  They are still in desperate need of organizations to partner with them in the area of socio-economic development of the women.  http://www.panzihospital.org/

US Churches-While in the DR Congo, we visited with a group of women who were attenders of a trauma conference a church in the Dallas, TX area presented a year prior.  These women were clearly challenged to accept the healing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ was offering.  One by one, a few of them stood up to testify how the conference had affected them and how they now see themselves as worthy daughters to a mighty King.  Yes!!!!  There is Healing; there is life even after death.

Though this deadly weapon of war against women is heinous, messy and disgusting; please don’t turn away and pretend it is far removed from your reality.  Don’t run from its messiness; embrace the tension! Do something!  Pray!  Give to an organization fighting for justice for these women! Go, if you can afford it and stomach it.  Whatever you do, Please do not say this is not your passion; any crime against another human being is a crime against humanity; it should be all our passion. Let us join hands to fight against this evil in our world. 

Father, let us be bold, courageous and join you in loosening the chains of injustice and setting the oppressed free!  In Jesus Name!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

My Africa!!!

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. Psalm 121:1-2

“How was Africa?” has been the number one question I’ve heard all week long. I tried writing several blogs to give you snippets as an attempt to not bore you with an extremely long blog but none really captured the heart of my trip to the motherland, so “How was Africa??”

First of all, I was extremely disappointed by the anticlimactic welcome to Africa, instead of being greeted by lions, tigers and elephants, with the theme song “Circle of Life” playing in the background, there were drivers with name signs waiting for us to start our adventure on well paved road. And neither were there soldiers shooting everywhere senselessly nor starving children to greet us. What I encountered, instead, brought meaning to my soul and a completeness to my being. For the first time in my life, I stepped on the ground my ancestors once walked, farmed and possibly chased lions and tigers. I took a deep breath and my soul rejoiced and instantly I felt my ancestors said “I told you we would be back!” Oh man it was Black beauty everywhere! Every shade of blackness was well represented. They looked at me and smiled as if they’d known me all their lives. Many of them were disappointed that I did not speak the same language. One older woman said through a translator: “how come you look exactly like us but does not speak our language?” She became indignant as if saying I was African but pretending to be American, she wanted me to be myself and drop the act. And it was my pleasure to give a basic course on world history 101. She seemed to be saddened by the story of slavery as if it was the first time she was hearing the heinous nature of the slave trade. The truth is the people from the villages have never heard the story of slavery and migration and they seldom see other blacks coming to serve them, so I completely understood their lack of awareness.
And for the week, we drove up and down a slippery, muddied road to a mountain called Mt Elgon, an area west of Kenya near the Uganda border, sorry we did not see Kony, but what we did see was a group of women desperate for healing. These women were survivors of many years of war; either war over land or post-election dissatisfaction. Usually when we think of war, we think of two opposing sides shooting dead their enemy. However war on these mountains were beyond a shoot to kill, war on these mountains meant homes being burned, farms destroyed, men being castrated and women and children violently raped; with that kind of brutal fighting I would take a bullet to the head any day. But these women were survivors but you might as well call them “dead women survivors” because something inside of them died during the years of wars.
So for the week we partnered with an organization called ALARM and this organization’s sole purpose is to facilitate peace, reconciliation and healing between opposing groups. And guess what? These people are hungry for such a message because they have seen the other side of peace. We taught on everything dealing with trauma; what it is, how it affects a person, how it affects children and how to heal from its pain. Our prescription: healing from trauma is a journey and without Christ there is no healing. By the end of the week, these women were on fire and energized to take what they had learned to their communities. We believe some strong and powerful community activists were birthed out of that week.

Not only did something great happen to these women on those mountains but it also happened to me. I “found” myself in My Africa!!

Most heartfelt Moment: The most heartfelt moment was watching these women worship. These women have been abused, lost children and husbands and yet their worship needed no instruments; their hands and harmony were enough to lead them to our Father’s throne.

Most Inspiring Moment: The most inspiring moment was seeing these women strategizing of how they were going to use what they have learned in their communities. One by one, they stood up to share how they would respond to child abuse, lack of education, to orphans and widows. These women were ready for action.

Funniest Moment: The funniest moment occurred during a lunch conversation with three of the women wondering why I “only” had 3 children and what kind of family “family planning” I was using. Having 6-10 children is very common amongst these women.

Proudest Moments: My proudest moment was working side by side with the Africa Alarm staff. We blended really well together, as if we’ve known each other for years. Each morning, we would alternate who would lead the devotion for the day. I believe God was smiling on us loving, honoring and building each other.

Enjoy the Worship!