Pastoral, Compassionate and Spiritual Response to the Challenges of Victims Suffering from Sexual Abuse in Conflict
Workshop in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, April 2-9
This is an important pilot with religious men and women in the Eastern DRC area and the professional Team of the United Kingdom which has worked on an International Protocol on the Documentation and Investigation of Sexual Violence in Conflict.
All participants are consecrated people (religious). Almost all the 33 participants, (not including the facilitators,) work regularly with survivors, (some for 20 years already). There are different levels of knowledge and experiences. There are medical doctors, psychologists, lawyer, nurses, counsellors, teachers, formaters in healthcare of survivors, anthropologist, theologian, chaplains of prisons, seven priests, some involved with refugees and some in charge of Justice and Peace commissions. They have been delegated by their bishops or their superiors. There is a great variety of rich expertise and experience. We have limited the registration to people working in DRC, Rwanda and Burundi, despite having received requests from several other African countries. The interest is high; we have 13 religious on a waiting list.
We have a full group of enthusiastic and committed participants here at the workshop. They are very appreciative of all of the prayers for this pilot project. Last evening we gathered for vespers and a brief sharing about our backgrounds.
This morning our day began with Lauds and an historical background of the development of the project. The local bishop came to welcome the group and said that he hoped that everyone will leave changed. He said that our meeting is on sacred ground and encouraged us to be reflective in the spirit of a pilgrim seeking God’s presence in the happenings of these days.
We entered into small group discussions giving our background experience in more depth and sharing our burning issues. This time was followed by a reflection on the social commitment of consecrated people to victims of violence. We were reminded of the many examples of mercy and compassion in the life of Jesus. Encouraging words from the recent popes were cited as well as the profound example of Pope Francis that our life of faith demands a social commitment.
Now we will consider more carefully our burning issues and some case studies we would want to see addressed. Our methodology is interactive because the participants come with so much to offer one another.
Sr. Sheila Kinsey, JPIC Co-secretary