I mentioned recently that I was reading a book that was destroying me. I have finished the book and it’s still destroying me as God gave me eyes to see the pain of people He loves, in a very hard place. I also mentioned to you that I’m working on knowing the world better, so that I can love the world better and that I want to take you on that journey with me, if you’ll come. So today, I’d like to share with you about this book:
Lisa Shannon was a successful stock photographer. She was struggling through a bit of depression and just going through the motions of her “successful” life. In the midst of that, one afternoon in 2006, she found herself watching Oprah and was shocked by a 20 minute segment on what is the “most lethal conflict since World War II” taking place in Eastern Congo. She could not believe that MILLIONS of people had been killed and this was the first time she was hearing about it.
Have you heard about it? A lot of people haven’t. Just this week I told some friends about the book and half of them knew nothing about the situation.
It was a reality that Lisa couldn’t shake from her mind. She started trying to dream up ways that she could do something to help these people that it seemed no one cared about. She decided to run – 30 miles – to raise awareness and support for an organization, called Women for Women, through which you can sponsor Congolese women. Eventually she started an organization called RUN FOR CONGO WOMEN to continue doing runs all over the US and in several other countries. In two years, her life had changed dramatically and she decided it was time to go meet the women of Congo herself. Her book tells the story of her first trip, and her 2nd, to meet her Congolese Sisters (those she had sponsored through her runs). She spent time learning from these women, hearing their stories of what it is like to be a woman in a place where rape is used as a weapon of war, where children are abducted to be soldiers or “wives,” and where militias attack homes and force family members to watch their mother, father, sister, or brother be brutally tortured and/or murdered.
You have probably seen the movie, Hotel Rwanda. I was in college when it came out (in 2004). They showed it on the lawn at school. I cried. They also showed us the Invisible Children film. I cried more. I got involved in the small ways I knew how. Eventually, I learned that what began in Rwanda did not actually end but just moved into Congo. The situations there has broken my heart over and over as I have read stories like this one. Click it. Read it. Let it break you. I was a bit familiar with Run for Congo Women, so when I realized that the founder of it had written a book of her experiences in Congo, the WORST place in the world to be a woman, I had to read it. (Click here to learn to read ten reasons why it is the WORST place to be a woman.)
It is not easy to read. Like I said, it destroyed me. Think of the most gruesome horrific evil acts you can imagine and I promise you, much much much worse than that is the reality that they live with daily. So, I wanted to know. I needed to know. As I read I had dreams at night. Terrible ones. But every time I woke up, I thought to myself… to MILLIONS this is not a bad dream they wake up to. It’s their LIFE. It’s the reality they live with daily and we… I… need to pay attention and know, so I can love. And now I’ve read it and honestly, it’s hard to know what to do with the information.
In the movie Hotel Rwanda there is a scene that will forever be etched in my mind:
I do NOT want to be someone who witnesses atrocities and then says “Oh my God, that’s horrible” and then goes on eating my dinner, living my life in lala land. But what can I/we do? The answer is certainly NOT nothing. I say we all choose to start with caring (not that we haven’t cared before, but what if we cared MORE?) … spend some time learning… and praying… and see where it takes us. Maybe you can skip a movie one night and do some learning and some dreaming instead.
There are organizations that are working to fight for the people of Congo. Here are a few:
- Women Helping Women, as mentioned above, allows you to sponsor a woman in the Congo helping provide for her needs and bring her new opportunities.
- Raise Hope for Congo deals with the issue of conflict minerals, which in many ways funds the war, and violence against women.
- International Rescue Committee deals with rebuilding, health, education, helping rape survivors heal and recover, etc.
- Exile International provides art therapy for children affected by the war. They share stories on their blog.
- Invisible Children is beginning a new Congo Tour. They have posted the 1st in a series of 3 videos about Congo on their website and will also be touring with a film later this year.
Here is an interview of Lisa Shannon done by Nicholas Kristof, a New York Times colomnist, a year ago – right before the book was published. It will give you an idea of Lisa’s story and of what is taking place in Congo.