By Janice Kaminer Reznik
It seems to me that the greatest opportunity for personal redemption is by playing a role in the redemption of others. Never do I feel this more strongly than when I am on a Jewish World Watch mission to Darfur or Congo. This past week we completed our 6th mission to the Congo—a place where the rape of women and girls and utter exploitation of children abound. Children stolen into militias at tender ages, drugged, forced to kill and maim and rape, for the benefit of the warlord and his cronies. Even when these children are redeemed from the militia (by organizations supported by JWW), re-socialization is a challenge, as leaving the militias does not mean that they leave behind their years of having lived in an environment of unimaginable cruelty and lawlessness.
With rape victims, tragedy prevails as well. Even when they are lucky enough to gain access to post-trauma surgeries and care (at Panzi Hospital, which we support) the rape victims are stigmatized and prevented from returning home.
We went to the village of Momushu, where we run several educational projects and support a home for teens made pregnant by rape. There, we met a 15-year-old girl who was raped last fall by someone from the next village. Her parents are both schoolteachers; they are loving and supportive, so, of course, they did not abandon her. But the girl was so traumatized that she decided to commit suicide by ingesting poison. Her parents found her and immediately took her to Panzi hospital to try and revive her. At Panzi, they met the great redeemer, Dr. Mukwege – a very famous fistula repair surgeon who started a hospital for rape victims in Bukavu. He performed a very delicate surgery, removing the pieces of her organs destroyed by poison. He saved her life.
She spent three months at Panzi and then returned to Momoshu. She is slowly recovering and has gone back to school. Our group had a private meeting with this girl and her mother today. She seemed very depressed, almost lacking affect. During our short meeting, we encouraged her. Naama – JWW’s Assistant Director – took a bracelet off her wrist that her mother had given her as a good luck charm for our trip. Naama gave it to the young woman as a token of good luck and a symbol of our solidarity. We all burst into tears, as the young woman accepted the bracelet and a hug from Naama. She flashed a broad smile and hugged each of us. It was powerfully moving for our entire group to see that this young woman – carrying such pain – was still able to smile, if only for a moment. Thank you Naama.
Over the years of coming here, I’ve learned that in confronting major challenges, like stemming violence against women and children, or like serving and helping addicts, or like trying to redeem lawless societies, it’s important to have patience. Real change takes time. Yet, the slow pace cannot discourage us. We must be satisfied with the opportunity being afforded to us by being able to envision that change is possible.
Traveling to the Congo and engaging in the work we do makes me feel blessed beyond words. I am blessed to have been born where I was born and to whom I was born. I am blessed to be given a chance to help others and to be part of their redemption. In so doing, I feel that I am redeeming myself, fulfilling my purpose and pursuing my passion.
Jewish World Watch (JWW) is a leading organization in the fight against genocide and mass atrocities. To learn more about the people they help all over the world visit their website at: http://www.jewishworldwatch.org/