SNAPSHOTS FROM CONGO: A PRIEST, THE WOMEN, AND AN ORPHAN
I write this blog while I am still in Congo, before my memory loses the smallest of the details.
These are not only words; I wish you could be able to smell and feel what I have experienced and witnessed. But these lines, I am afraid, are all I can share with you as a reader.
Read them slowly, since they tell the stories of real people. These are their lives. Treasure them, as they portray the voices of those that struggle every day to just survive.
Congo, I write this for those I have met, and for those who will be in my mind for the rest of my life. I promise not to forget.
These are a few of the snapshots:
- African pygmy people are an ethnic group that can be found in Rwanda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Republic of Congo, Cameroon, Angola, and Botswana, among other countries. Most Pygmy communities are hunters and gatherers. In 2003, the UN’s Indigenous People’s Forum received evidence that during the Congo Civil War the pygmies were hunted down and eaten as though they were game animals. Some groups still refer to them as “the bush meat that talks”. Still today, other ethnic groups see them as inferior. While conducting a study on what they considered basic needs, especially the women pointed out that living without discrimination was one of their first most-needed basic needs—with the same wage, education, access to decision-making, and the right to eat.
- While in the boarders of the Fauna Reserve of Letni, we saw a car with a cross and chalice in the doors, making it easy to identify that this was a “car of God”. To my surprise, the car stopped and this very tall white man in fatigue cloths came out stating he was a priest. From the back of the car three young men came out, all heavily armed. They unloaded their day of “religious work”, killing monkeys and pangolins (also referred to as a scaly anteater or trenggiling). They claimed they have a license to do a safari. While I saw this in astonishment I can only think, what in the world is a priest doing conducting a safari? All of this in the name of God?
- There are many new religious sects, sprouting like mushrooms throughout Congo. Some of them teach incredible beliefs. It is common that families take under their care small kids who are not part of their nuclear family, either from a previous marriage, or because the mother has died. Some priests are claiming that some of the disasters that these communities are facing, like droughts, or loss of crops, are due to this practice, and that “those kids” need to be thrown out of the house. I can only think how many orphans are we going to have based on the fact that climate change is bringing new unexplained disasters to this part of the world.
- Heard from a priest’s mouth: If a woman is part of my sect she cannot be part of any community decision-making body. This is against God’s ruling.
- Everyone wants to work. In the road that connects Brazzaville with the rest of the country, there are kids with shovels filling up the potholes with dirt and sand. The drivers provide them with coins for their service.
- Congo is one of the few countries in the world where plastic bags have been banned; everywhere, you are provided with bags made of cloth. Incredible indeed. An example to follow?
While I finish this blog I can hear the voice of a woman who told me: Where are the schools? The hospitals? Why does a woman have to see her children die of starvation? Is life only about work and death?