We humans turn our faces away when the sight is too horrible to comprehend. When tragedy is so heinous that our brains cannot decipher the event, it is as if it doesn’t exist.
I believe that is what is happening now with the world and the ongoing situation in the Congo. The world we live in is too flat, too small, communication too accessible and available, a world where travel to geographically distant sites is for us too fast for us to even contemplate that weak excuse that was heard when six million Jews were exterminated: ‘I didn’t know.’
“…the brutal war here in eastern Congo has not only lasted longer than the Holocaust but also appears to have claimed more lives. A peer- reviewed study put the Congo war’s death toll at 5.4 million as of April 2007 and rising at 45,000 a month. That would leave the total today, after a dozen years, at 6.9 million.”
I can’t even imagine those figures as real lives, as individuals. It’s so overwhelming in its horror and sheer numbers of the dead that my brain can’t envision it as real, but what may be even more difficult for us, in our protected lives to envision, is the rape, torture, and mutilation that is daily fare in this ravaged country.
This article in the New York Times Sunday edition gives details of one young woman’s heart-rending journey and struggle to survive. I have a daughter not much older than Jeanne Mukuninwa and I shudder to think of her being born into such circumstances.
What can we do? It’s not our country. I have no political power that would make a difference. It’s not our responsibility. Africa has always been a violent mess. I’m not a famous person who can command public attention, we say.
We can bear witness. We can put fingers to keyboard and blog our outrage. We can tell our friends. If enough of us shout out our dismay, our horror, our objection to a continuing war that is killing our fellow human beings on such a scale and causing lives to be mutilated beyond endurance, we will be heard by those to whom we have given power.
If our governments can bring sanctions to bear in North Korea and Iran out of fear that they may strike us with nuclear weapons, why can’t we bring that same international pressure to bear on a part of the world that is committing appalling atrocities daily?
“ ‘Sometimes I don’t know what I am doing here,” Dr. Mukwege said despairingly. “There is no medical solution.” The paramount need, he says, is not for more humanitarian aid for Congo, but for a much more vigorous international effort to end the war itself.”
“That means putting pressure on neighboring Rwanda, a country so widely admired for its good governance at home that it tends to get a pass for its possible role in war crimes next door. We also need pressure on the Congolese president, Joseph Kabila, to arrest Gen. Jean Bosco Ntaganda, wanted by the International Criminal Court on war crimes charges. And, as recommended by an advocacy organization called the Enough Project, we need a U.S.-brokered effort to monitor the minerals trade from Congo so that warlords can no longer buy guns by exporting gold, tin or coltan.”
This is my shout. Please read it and pass it on. Do some shouting of your own. When will we (in the West), we (with money, military might, and international cache), we (who say we are moral, ethical, compassionate beings) – when will we act? How many more young women will suffer a fate similar to or worse than Jeanne Mukuninwa?
I lived in Northern Africa for over two years and I can tell you that their eyes are as firmly averted as are ours. The Butterfly Effect of Chaos theory tells us the simple truth that what happens in Congo effects what happens to us in America, in Britain, in France, everywhere on Earth. Spiritual awareness tells us that what happens to anyone’s daughter could happen to my daughter. Personal responsibility tells us that we are accountable for slaughter and torture that occurs next door, next country, or next continent.
“In chaos theory, "The Butterfly Effect" refers to the discovery that in a chaotic system such as the global weather, tiny perturbations in the system may sometimes lead to major changes in the overall system. It is theoretically possible that a slight rise in temperature in the ocean off the cost of Peru will create tiny changes in the air flow that would eventually lead to different weather in North America and Europe. In most cases the slight change would make no difference whatsoever, but when the system is unpredictable at a certain stage, the future may unfold quite differently, depending upon what little difference occurred.
Chaos theory is reminiscent of Gestalt theory; a whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”
There is a Korean proverb, Taggeulmoa taesan (티끌모아 태산). “Gather dust to build a mountain.” Every mountain begins as a mote of dust. Let’s start shoveling shall we?