When we hear about abuse within churches these days we often think about sexual abuse by leaders. But there are other forms of abuse that happen in other parts of the world. The following link talks about abuse that happens as a child is accused of being a witch or engaging the demonic world. In our Global Trauma Recovery course, we looked at some of the ways adult women in Ghana are accused of sorcery and who must then flee to witch camps to save their lives. The link below addresses the abuse of children labeled demonic in the DRC.
When you finish reading, you might sigh with relief that this isn’t a problem in the US church. Well, maybe not so fast? If you check out the lawsuit against Sovereign Grace Ministries, there are equally distressing accounts of abuse and cover-up.
DR Congo’s Withcraft Epidemic: 50,000 Children Accused of Sorcery – IBTimes UK.
Followers of this blog will know that I have been to Eastern Congo and am passionate about the people there. You also know that there is a rather ugly and complex struggle for power in that region. This link to a Huff Post opinion piece provides an insight to some of those current complexities from an insider’s perspective. For example, some found the M23 group as elevating safety over that of the government soldiers. And yet, the M23 group may be funded by outsiders with evil intent.
I highly recommend you read it. You might ask why, since what goes on in the DRC has little to do with your life. You should care because,
- the extent of the recent decades of disaster there will boggle your mind and overshadow nearly every other disaster you care about
- these are our brothers and sisters and we are called to love our neighbor
The author, Julia Lewis, concludes her essay this way
The sad fact is that violence in the DRC is constant. As Congolese activist Vava Tampa recently reported in an article on CNN, the conflicts in DRC
… have claimed nearly the same number of lives as having a 9/11 attack every single day for 360 days, the genocide that struck Rwanda in 1994, the ethnic cleansing that overwhelmed Bosnia in the mid-1990s, the genocide that took place in Darfur, the number of people killed in the great tsunami that struck Asia in 2004, and the number of people who died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki — all combined and then doubled.
What will happen next in DRC? Anything is possible — and we need the world to keep listening. As many as 5.4 million people died in the last Congo war. That is fact, not fiction. And we cannot afford for it to happen again.
Have you seen the video already? As of Monday, March 12, the youtube counter was at 74 million views. Not bad for 6 days. The video, as I am sure you already know, was created by Invisible Children, and organization designed to advocate for the protection of children in central Africa and programs of help (tracking Kony’s militia, educating children, early warning detection, etc.). Their primary purpose is to (a) educate the world about the abuses and terrorism of Joseph Kony, and (b) keep up the political pressure on decision makers so that they do not drop the ball on the efforts to arrest Kony. If you are not aware, President Obama sent 100 military advisors to the region to support national troops in their search for Kony. Kony2012 is meant to maintain political and cultural pressure to keep searching for him (20 power brokers, 12 politicians= 2012).
Of course, with every good intention, comes criticism and controversy. You can read a number of complaints about the efforts. Invisible Children (IC)
- advocate US military involvement in a foreign country where we do not have significant interests
- spend only some 37% of donations in Africa on programs
- imply in the video that Kony is attacking Ugandans when he hasn’t been there for 6 years
- make no mention of the destruction by Kony in the DRC and the CAR.
- further the idea that the white man needs to save Africa
Do a little homework and you realize that IC is promoting Kony’s capture (not death), is designed to be an advocate and not primarily a service program in Africa, and knows that Kony isn’t in Uganda anymore. I suppose the complaint that has the most merit is that the video perpetuates the idea that white people have to solve Africa’s problem. It might have been helpful to show what Africans are doing already.
So your thoughts? Does the video spur you on to help? Does the recent take downs of dictators fuel our willingness to remove tyrants from power? Should we solve other country’s problems? Given the DRC’s lack of a strong central government, ought we to act first and apologize later?
I would suggest that the video does its job in a bit of education with a focus on action steps. A video that just gives the gory facts (and pictures) often just traumatizes and paralyzes. It could have played up the footage in such a way as to make it seem like Africans are violent people–or corrupt. The film could have talked about the immense forests of the DRC and that finding Kony will be finding a needle in a haystack. Or, it could have played to all that IC has done in a self-promotional manner. Yet it did none of those things. It made mention of the need, the desire of Africans to bring Kony to justice, and the opportunity average people have to help leaders keep their eye on the ball.
My thoughts? Watch the video. Engage in some good conversation about how Christians can speak up about evils done to nameless/faceless people. Debate the merits of propaganda for a good cause. Discuss practical ways to influence power. Decide if IC is a good place for your funds and if not, find another doing the work you cannot do yourself. Speak up for justice. Review the electronic action kit.
PS: Here is a great (bit long) perspective from Drs who have a deep and abiding love for Uganda and Jesus: http://paradoxuganda.blogspot.com/2012/03/on-kony-and-viruses.html
One of the necessary first steps of doing international trauma work is to listen to the stories of trauma. There are two main reasons. First, it can be healing for the teller to tell their story to someone safe and caring (if those leading the story telling project follow some basic rules). Second, stories often reveal useful information that may determine future trauma recovery intervention strategies.
But let us also admit there can be a downside to getting others to tell their story, especially those who are impoverished and in great need:
- When “helpers” or journalists helicopter in to hear the stories, the victims may not feel free to not tell their stories because of the help they hope to receive
- Outside helpers may repeat the stories in such a way as to sensationalize or to gain more money for future trips. While some reasons to tell may be noble and good, does the retelling of the trauma put the victim at risk for retaliation?
- Getting victims to tell their story may first raise hopes for change and then dash them if there isn’t a plan for follow-up
- Sometimes outsiders listen only to help themselves feel better (see, we cared enough to listen) but not do anything to help
In less than one month I will be on my way to do just this kind of listening in both the DRC and Rwanda. The challenge for us is to listen and invite story-telling in ways that leaves victims with immediate help and hope and a viable plan for the future (as it pertains to what to do about their trauma).
But we face some hurdles in trying to hear the right (real) or most important stories.
1. Hearing the real stories. Sometimes stories get cleaned up in an effort to tell us what others think we want to hear. Other stories are told with a slant in order to avoid stirring up other trouble.
2. Avoiding our own biases. Some victims may be perpetrators even as they are also victims. It is easy to categorize individuals in such a way that we stop listening to the pain or the recovery. We can fail to see how victims handle temptations for revenge or how perpetrators act humanely.
3. Lost in translation. Most of the stories we will hear are going to be told to us in a language other than English. That means the story we hear may be the words of the translator rather than the victim.
There is a fine line between listening for learning or helping and listening for curiosity. It is not always clear where that line is but pray for us as we seek to listen in ways that bring health and a plan for healing. We do not want to merely rubberneck like those driving past a bad accident, looking but not providing any help.
One sign that we are listening well is that the victim not only recalls the terrible things from their past but that they also recall how they survived and have some sense of being empowered in their present and future.