If you scroll down on this page, you’ll read horrifying statistics of crimes from the crises in the CAR, DRC, and Nigeria. Specifically speaking of the crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo, you will learn that about five million lives have been claimed within a time span of seven years, making it the world’s deadliest conflict since World War II. You will read that over 1,000 women in the DRC are raped on a daily basis, which has earned the DRC the reputation of the rape capital of the world. You will gain an understanding of the role of the Lord’s Resistance Army and how these atrocities began and how they continue to occur even today. You will learn that people are willing to fight, rape, loot, abuse, and even kill another person of the same nationality because of their religion, political stance, or the material goods they have access to.
After reading these things, we can all agree that war is a terrible thing. The world has recognized this unacceptable injustice and has taken steps of action to bring about awareness and stop the violence. The UN Security Council has a huge presence in the DRC, confronting various armed groups in attempts to bring about peace. Campaigns like KONY 2012 and movies like Blood Diamond have successfully caught the attention of many Americans, turning their eyes onto the heated issue.
However, what often goes ignored is what happens to the people who have survived or escaped these brutal acts of violence. Although the official end of the second Congo War occurred in 2003, violence broke out again in 2012 in the east and northeast regions of the country and resulted in more than 2.2 million displaced persons (Refugee Council USA). According to the Refugee Council USA, 70,000 more Congolese fled their homes to take refuge in neighboring countries like Uganda and Rwanda. In total, approximately 400,000 Congolese remain as refugees and have not returned home since they first fled. What’s the problem with this? These surrounding Sub-Saharan countries are not exactly stable enough to take in thousands of homeless refugees and care for them.
Thankfully, there is also good news to this story, which I believe is just as important as sharing as the harsh realities and depressing statistics we hear of. In 2015, The United Nations refugee agency set out to find homes for at least 50,000 Congolese refugees over the next few years, and many of these refugees will be taken to the US (Here & Now). Although this only makes up about 12% of all Congolese refugees and only .001% of the total number of internally displaced people worldwide, this is still progress–progress that’s worth celebrating. In addition to this, people like 20 year-old refugee Sandra Uwiringiyimana are determined to continue rescuing and protecting the most vulnerable refugees. The beginning of Sandra’s testimony represents many of the Congolese population. It is a story of grieving for lost family members, running from gunshots, hiding from perpetrators, and constantly living in fear. However, her story is also of hope and change. Eight years ago, Sandra was brought to the US as a refugee and now is actively fighting to help others experience a happy ending. Last year she spoke before the U.N. Security council and is the co-founder and executive director of RefugeePoint. (Watch: Sandra Uwiringiyimana speak before the UN Security Council)
Instead of feeling defeated and crippled by the enormous problem in the DRC, we need more people like Sandra Uwiringiyimana, who will step up to be the voice of the hurting and displace and enact change. Along with this, we need people who will listen, care, and come alongside efforts like that of Sandra. America will decide to extend a helping hand to refugees when the people of America decide that they care. And the only way our government will hear that we care is if we speak. So, I will end this post with a simple challenge–a challenge to no longer be silent. But to listen, learn, and retell the stories of refugees from the Congo and all around the world.