Last night, I saw one of the most devastating and uplifting films of my life: City Of Joy, a place that is helping women thrive after the worst realities imaginable in Congo.
The Democratic Republic of Congo is the global epicenter of rape as a weapon of war. Multi-national companies from around the world fund militia groups to aid in their illegal exploitation of mines in Congo to get tungsten and other conflict minerals for cell phones (probably like the one I use) and in doing so, these companies are directly funding the shattering of women’s lives.
Dr. Mukwege began helping the women of Congo who once were the fabric of their communities, torn asunder by the war for minerals, and violated in ways that most of us hope to go our entire lives never having to imagine. He and Co-founder Christine Schuler Deschryver started City Of Joy as a school for emotional and physical resiliency, to teach these women that they are not worthless, to help them find their voices, learn to defend themselves, learn to speak up, learn to experience love again, and more than anything else, to find hope.
The activist and playwright Eve Ensler, who has spent decades uplifting women and giving them voice after her own rape by her father, was touched deeply by the conflict in Congo and the toll it was taking on women there. She and her organization VDay.Org helped raise the funds to build the City Of Joy.
When we see truth, like he did about these women, we can not close our eyes to the horrors instituted onto people in the name of greed. We can not sit on the sidelines. This is the message Dr. Mukwege’s story reminded me of. Even after an assassination attempt, he knew his heart was telling him he had to continue to help these women in any way that he can.
If he and Christine are asked if they face the danger, they say it is relative: Every moment they live in danger of their lives being taken for the work they do at the City Of Joy. But clearly, it is their calling. And when you see the joy on the women’s faces, hear their laughter, and watch them dance the dances of their villages, even after everything they have survived, we are reminded of the resiliency of the human spirit.
CALL TO ACTION:
Go to CityOfJoyFilm.com and sign up to host a screening of the film in your community to raise awareness of what is happening to women in Congo, to help end the genocide, and transition survivors to become leaders in their communities.
-Alok Appadurai is founder of GoodElephant.org, a believer in compassion, a holistic mental health coach, social entrepreneur, and sober vegan dad.
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