Light Overcoming Dark in Congo, Africa

On the international news front, this story of the horrific violence in the Republic of Congo also includes the story of hope found in Camille and Esther Ntoto, field supervisors for Light of Africa Network.
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Camille and Esther Ntoto

In Democratic Republic of Congo, Rape Leaves Horrifying Trail Violence against women used as instrument of war

By Mark Ellis
Senior Correspondent

IRVINE, CALIFORNIA — (ASSIST News Service) Sifa fled from the fields near her village after she heard the sounds of the screaming and commotion. By the time she reached Kiwanja and her mother’s tearful embrace, she had already been raped by soldiers on a dirt road. Compounding the ordeal, her father died in the assault.

“We want women and girls to talk about the sexual violence,” says Esther Ntoto, who serves with her husband Camille as field coordinators for Light of Africa Network.

Over 5.4 million have died as a result of the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which some have termed “Africa’s World War.” This makes it the world’s deadliest conflict since World War II, with a death toll exceeding Bosnia, Kosovo, Rwanda and Darfur in Sudan.

Beginning in 1998, the conflict has involved seven foreign armies. Despite the signing of peace accords in 2003, fighting continues in the mineral-rich eastern portion of the country. The prevalence and intensity of rape and other sexual violence in eastern Congo has been described as the worst in the world.

“One out of three women have been raped in the Eastern DRC,” according to Camille, citing figures from the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Some suffer from fistula, a medical condition resulting from a tear between the birth canal and anal cavity. “The soldiers finish their atrocious acts by shoving objects into their private parts, leaving these women in a very bad situation.” The shame resulting from their infertility or incontinence causes some to be shunned and cast out of their villages.

The mission of Light of Africa Network is inspired by Psalm 82:

“Provide justice for the needy and the fatherless; uphold the rights of the oppressed and the destitute. Rescue the poor and needy; save them from the hand of the wicked.”

The Ntotos live among the rape victims and disaster survivors, conducting Bible studies, individual counseling and prayer sessions. “The hospitals take care of the medical needs and their psychological counseling, but I thought it is also good to do Bible study,” Esther says. “We meet every other day and we also have prayer,” she says. “We have seen drastic changes in their countenances.”

Recently, Esther led a woman to the Lord at the hospital, only to discover she was missing the next day.

“Where is the lady who was here yesterday?” Esther inquired.

“She passed away last night,” one of the patients reported.

Esther felt hurt. How could the Lord take her so soon?

“Why are you sad…she’s with the Lord,” another patient said. “We couldn’t sleep last night because she was praising the Lord and singing all night long.”

The Ntotos are helping to raise funds for an empowerment center, which will serve as transitional housing while the women are rehabilitated. “They will learn skills at the center until they are able to stand on their feet,” Esther says.

Light of Africa Network is also partnering with other organizations to bring micro loans and micro financing to help sustain families. They gave one young boy named Fikiri a five-dollar micro loan, which he used to buy candies and tissues for resale. “Now he has a little store,” Camille reports, “and he’s only 13. When he has to go to school, his mother sells for him.”

Despite the peace accords signed six years ago, some 45,000 continue to die each month – many from the starvation and disease that results from violence. The Ntotos want to see more women testify about the violence perpetrated against women.

“They must break the silence,” Esther says, noting that a few brave women have stepped forward. “They want the war to stop, the violence to stop, and the perpetrators to be arrested,” she says.

Source: ASSIST News Service

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