Kristof Discusses Rape

Nicholas Kristof’s latest op-ed discusses rape – a weapon of war which often outlasts the war itself.

Put simply by Kristof –

Even when the fighting ends, the rape continues.

Sexual violence plagues several areas ripped apart by war – Congo, Sudan, Bosnia, Rwanda, Liberia – leaving a lasting impact on women, girls, men, boys, and children born out of such a crude violation of one’s rights as a human being.

A police officer from Liberia was interviewed as part of Kristof’s column. His words stayed with me –

Rape is a scar that the war left behind.

Rape – A Weapon of War

Today, an expert spoke with several US senators about a common weapon of war.

No, that weapon was not guns nor was it bombs. It was rape.

Rape is far too often used as a means of bringing down the enemy during a war – as is the case currently in Darfur and the Congo (DRC).

1100 rapes are reported in the Congo every month – that’s 36 women and girls victimized each day! And just think about the number of incidents that go unreported.

According to the State Department’s ambassador-at-large for global women’s issues –

Rape is employed as a weapon because it is effective…it destroys the fabric of society from within and does so more efficiently than do guns or bombs…the apparent purpose is to leave a lasting and inerasable signal to others that the woman has been violated.

US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice plans to travel to Africa to discuss the issue of rape in war-torn societies – an issue referred to as a “shame on the human race” by California senator Barbara Boxer.

Also today – the US was elected to the UN Human Rights Council. Let’s hope we make the most of it.

The Greatest Silence – DRC’s Women Find Their Voice

tsFrom the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange –

Since 1998, a brutal war has been raging in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Over 4 million people have died. And there are the uncountable casualties: the many tens of thousands of women and girls who have been systematically kidnapped, raped, mutilated and tortured by soldiers from both foreign militias and the Congolese army.

The world knows nothing of these women. Their stories have never been told. They suffer and die in silence. In The Greatest Silence, these brave women finally speak.

The film will be presented by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange on Friday, June 5th, at 6:30pm. Join the viewing and discussion afterwards. There is no fee to participate.

Deadliest Year on Record

2008 has been named the deadliest year for aid workers as a result of increased violence and kidnappings.

Overall, 260 aid workers were attacked and 122 were killed. Countries experiencing the most aid worker deaths during 2008 include Somalia (45), Afghanistan (33), and Sudan (19).

Killings have increased four times during the past ten years.

Many believe that 2009 will be “bad if not worse” – with both political and economic motives at play.

Rwandan Genocide Victims to be Reburied

15 years ago, at least 800,000 people were massacred in Rwanda. Thousands of bodies were dumped into rivers – ultimately ending up in Uganda’s Lake Victoria to be buried by villagers.

Now, those victims will receive “proper burials” in three permanent mass graves in Uganda. The exhumation and reburials will begin after Easter and will be finished within 100 days.

To learn more about the 1994 Rwandan genocide (which began on April 7th fifteen years ago), click here.

One interesting note – as previously mentioned, the reburials will be completed within 100 days – the same number of days that the genocide lasted.

But remember – although the genocide “lasted” 100 days, its effects are still being felt today.

Bringing Smiles to Congo’s Children

A group of performing clowns (creatively named Clowns Without Borders) plans to tour displacement camps in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Children make up more than 50% of the population of camps in eastern DRC. A spokesperson for Clowns Without Borders believes that the clowns may help the camps’ children “overcome their trauma”.

The group previously performed in Syria and Yugoslavia, where their smile-producing initiative was a success.

US to Appoint Special Envoy

While no formal announcement has been made, several media outlets are reporting that US President Barack Obama will appoint retired Air Force General Scott Gration as his special envoy to Sudan. Such a formal announcement may come as early as tomorrow.

Gration has an interesting history – raised in the Congo, served as a fighter pilot, won a Purple Heart. He also traveled to Africa with Obama in 2006 and referred to the president as a “leader committed to end that genocide (Darfur)”.

Also Tuesday, the US State Department delivered harsh words to Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and the “catastrophe” he has created by kicking aid organizations out of the country.

Secretary of State Hilary Clinton appeared ready to take Bashir head-on –

They will be held responsible for every single death that occurs in those camps because by their expulsion of the aid workers, they are putting those 1.4 million lives at risk.

Thank you to those who urged the White House to wake up to the Darfur crisis and appoint a special envoy to Sudan.