疯狂英语·阅读版 2013年12期

by Belinda Bauman

This was the year my two sons began to love superheroes. We popped in the SpiderMan DVD one night out of boredom and for the next five months we watched everything SpiderMan, Superman, Ironman, and Whoeverman we could. So, when I announced I would be making a special trip to the Eastern 1)Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to find and record the stories of brave women living in what the U.N. calls the “most dangerous place to be a mother” their reaction was natural: “Mom, they are like superheroes.”

My journey into the heart of war-torn Eastern Congo began last summer. I first learned about the seriousness of the war in Congo years ago while living as a mom, with my two toddlers and my husband in Rwanda for 2)World Relief. The decades-long war in Eastern Congo is shaped by regional politics, ethnic rancor, and a greed surrounding the 3)lucrative mineral mines.

I saw that almost six million people have died in this war, making it the most deadly conflict since WWII, and yet never making front-page news. To mothers, the casualties are husbands, sons, daughters, and parents.

Villages where they had hoped their children would grow up are swallowed up by violence. Crops they had grown with the faith that there would be plenty are stolen. The land many of these 4)subsistence farmers hoped to pass on to their grandchildrens children is 5)pillaged and burned. As a result of this unrest and extreme vulnerability of 6)civilians, moms here live in the shadow of the largest U.N. peacekeeping mission in the world.

As I entered my first Congolese Internally Displaced peoples (IDP) camp in August of this year, I was struck by the sheer amount of children. Children of all ages—everywhere I looked.

By all accounts, on all fronts, both the formal and informal IDP camps around the region are beyond capacity. Marcel Serebungo, Church Mobilization Director for World Relief Congo, describes the situation:

“IDP camps were moving every day. People suffered so much because movement wasinvolving parents who are not strong enough to carry children and some of their belongings after spending days without eating and children who are so weak. Women and children are targeted because of their vulnerability. They live like slaves in their own villages—being beaten, put in prison without any reason, carrying burdens for armed people and paying non-reasonable taxes.”

Such was the story of Maisha Esperance. She and her family fled from the Rutshuru area one year ago. Shots fired in their village throughout the whole night, forcing her and her family out into the dark to run for their lives. The journey on foot and by cover of darkness took three days. They moved undetected from village to village and rested with the youngest children, but had to gather water and food for at least one meal.

Here in the overcrowded IDP camp, Maisha Esperance and I talked about how she gathers wood in the forest. For her, and many others who gather sticks for fire, this is dangerous work. Brave women go into the forests to gather wood. It may take as much as a third of a bundle of wood just to cook the hard casings of Congolese red beans. 7)Militia men know about these needed trips into the woods, and they wait for the women to come. Rape, as the saying here goes,is cheaper than bullets. In this region of Africa, a wife and mother are considered the beauty of the community—the heart of the home. If you can break the heart, you can break the community.

I asked if I could pray for her and her children. “Yes,” she said as she looked me in the eye for the first time. Then, without apology or hesitation she said, “Pray that I would have strength in my struggles. I need strength for my family and for the others. I feel alone. I have no one to speak for me.” This was her only request, and it came from the heart.

It turns out that mothers in war zones are not so different from mothers in Washington D.C., Los Angeles, Detroit, 8)Milwaukee, or 9)Baltimore. Women and children have suffered the unspeakable here, and yet, they are full of bravery that propels them forward every day, taking back the dignity and control that has been wrestled from them. They find food, they give birth, they wash clothes, they heal from wounds, they start businesses, and they educate their children as best they can. Moreover, they extend comfort and strength to those around them.

Just like the fictional citizens of 10)Gotham City, the grassroots moms of Congo want to live in peace. It is these mothers who live in exile and uncertainty every day that carry on their shoulders the very future of Congo. Facing these brave ones, I see their hope and my heart remembers the power of a mother motivated. A woman filled with courage to survive is nigh on unstoppable.

Much like a superhero.