At the official launch of our new graphic novel series AFRICA IN IMAGES, I had a chance to meet face to face with all the people who worked together to create the first book on the Democratic Republic of the Congo: Roza, or the Courage to Choose Life.
During the launch event I made notes in the empty space around the intense and powerful images on my very first copy of the graphic novel as I listened to our riveting guests. Sister Marie-Bernard Alima, from the Justice and Peace Episcopal Commission of the DRC and Most Rev. Nicolas Djomo, President of the Conference of Bishops of the DRC, spoke powerfully about their work bringing peace to their country.
One of the key moments that stimulated this whole comic project began with a meeting between Soeur Marie Bernard and young people at the College de l’Ascension, where the students wanted to develop something to mobilize people around what was going on. It all came from a desire to empower people, to encourage each other and collaborate on a project of solidarity, with a focus on respecting the initiatives of the people of the DRC and the work of the Commission. Hence the graphic novel-style education campaigns began, highlighting the impact of the violence, but more importantly, the initiatives and empowerment of the Congolese people.
With 60 million Catholics in the Congo, the Church is working full-time to restore human dignity – to renew a respect for the dignity of each person, and to live out this mutual respect. They shared with us their communitarian approach to reconciliation, touching on the physical, moral and spiritual needs of the people. Sister Marie Bernard told us about how the programs allow people who have suffered, and are so discouraged, to be able to stand up again and take up life and have courage.
The Justice and Peace Commission wants all of us to join them in their work of evangelization – to preach the gospel of human dignity. The Commission believes strongly that those who have suffered can and will reflect upon their situation and read their context: where we are, what happened, what can we do. This analysis and reflection work is critical to rebuilding confidence and bringing forth new leadership = confidence gives courage. The graphic novels speaks to the courage of women to rebuild, to lead their families when their men are knocked down. The Congolese women are saying “Get up, Come on, We can do this, Together we are strong”!
For Sister Marie Bernard the most inspiring thing she has experienced is this link between confidence and courage. How? Again and again Sister Marie Bernard has met a woman who doesn’t know how to read, and through learning this important skill she finds her voice and gains confidence. This woman then takes her new capacity to the next level and leads her community to humanize their society during and after the dehumanizing experiences of war. From hell and back – this is the power of believing in the dignity of the person.
Join us in supporting the Justice and Peace Commission of the Congo with Development and Peace. Stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters who have the Courage to Choose Life!
by Genevieve Gallant
Read the comic: http://youth.devp.org/2011/10/urgent-action-the-congo/
Today we met with Caritas MONA- Moyen Orient et Nord Afrique (Middle East and North Africa), and learned a tremendous amount about the Caritas network and what it means when we are talking about “capacity building”.
What is Caritas? Caritas Internationalis is the international association of 165 national Caritas networks. It is one of the world’s largest humanitarian organizations. Communication and coordination between national networks is made more effective by seven regional offices that serve Africa, Asia, Europa (Europe), Latin America and the Caribbean, the Middle East and North Africa (MONA), North America, and Oceania.
The principle themes that Caritas tries to address on a global scale, are economic justice, peace and reconciliation, refugees and migrants, HIV-AIDS, climate change, and emergency relief.
16 member organizations in the MONA region work, often in situations of conflict, to meet the greatest needs of local communities. Local Caritas groups have emergency plans to respond to needs generated by conflict, but do not play a political role in war time.
The main projects of the Caritas organizations in the MONA region, given by order of frequency of project type, are:
Assistance to migrants
Empowerment of women
The mission of Caritas MONA is to: work on exchanges and assistance between member organizations and to facilitate their working together in harmony while ensuring that everyone in the region applies the objectives and values of the Caritas confederation.
This is capacity building: supporting the growth and health of organizations through:
training sessions and organizing seminars,
providing tools for campaigns and fundraising with the programs of Caritas Internationalis,
assisting with the foundation of new Caritas organizations,
helps the member organizations in achieving their goals,
connecting the work of members with the wider Catholic church
This is capactity building: trainings so that organizations, social movement and citizens are informed and equipped to take on the challenges they face in a way that is participative and peaceful.
This is capacity building: Partners are well linked into communities, are strong and credible, and can develop appropriate strategies to deal with the challenged that they face.
Caritas MONA opened our eyes to the depth and breadth of the humanitarian efforts being made by the Caritas networks in each country of the MONA region. The staff shared with us the global picture, with the challenges being faced in the region, as well as the inspiring efforts of single individuals, such the single nun who is Caritas Libya, and the 1,538 staff who run the many programs in Caritas Egypt.
Long may the good work of our Caritas family continue!
While only in Lebanon a few days we have already experienced so much – incredible encounters, meetings and experiences. This morning, we were looking forward to meeting Linda Macktaby to learn more, because our curiosity is growing day by day! When we met her in Beirut we did not expect to make such a connection with this young activist, a dynamic, interesting woman, with a special sense of humour.
In Beirut: Linda from FDCD, Geneviève and Amélie, DP Ottawa-Hull members
Through this young woman, who leads programs and youth groups with FDCD (Forum for Development, Culture and Dialogue), we discovered all about the life of a Lebanese person who is involved and active in civil society in Lebanon. Working on the reconstruction of peace and reconciliation in a country as divided politically and religiously as Lebanon, is not an easy task, let alone doing so as a woman.
FDCD members with DP members!
However, Linda’s strong character and her unparalleled motivation seem to give her wings for her work and for the FDCD programs. Lebanese women do not always have a voice. The FDCD projects are primarily focused on young people and the empowerment of women, both being essential for the construction of a strong civil society. In fact, the employees and members of FDCD are mainly committed and determined young people, where women thrive.
Although women are marginalized in Lebanon, they are surely the most active in sharing an insatiable desire for a change in attitude amidst situations of inequality and injustice. As a woman myself and a student in the field of development, the work and spirit of Linda and FDCD have inspired and affected me greatly.
More than 250,000 Palestinians are currently living in 12 camps within Lebanon. The Palestinian people have been displaced, and have been living as refugees for over 60 years. Nevertheless, the Palestinians continue to live in the daily hope of returning to their homeland.
This was most evident in May, when 100,000 Palestinians returned to the Israeli border to demonstrate their right to return to their homeland. Six were killed. Today there is little evidence that displaced Palestinians will become citizens of their own land in the foreseeable future.
One Palestinian camp in Lebanon, named Shatila, is situated within Beirut. The 1km2 of land is home to over 17,000 people. 5,000 people are Palestinians, and the rest are a mix of Syrians, Lebanese, Sudanese, and Iraqi refugees. Non-Palestinians use the camp as a safe haven, the one place they can avoid prison terms for being an “illegal” person.
As refugees, Palestinians are denied the right to work or own property, despite their will and abilities – 50% are university graduates. Opinions over the Palestinians’ right to work are divided; there are fears that allowing them to work will encourage them to remain in Lebanon, though they will tell you clearly – they want to be in Palestine, not Lebanon.
During the Israeli war on Lebanon in the early 1980’s, Shatila was the scene of a catastrophic massacre in 1982, where 1,500 people were slaughtered at the hands of the militia of the Lebanese Forces, supported by the Israeli army. Immediately after, in Lebanon and internationally, news, information, or press about what happened were suppressed and the destroyed camp was declared a military zone. With the assistance of the UN, the Israeli’s withdrew, and control was handed over to the Syrian army. Conditions remained desperate within the camp. In 1984 the “war of the camps” broke out. Shatila remained under siege for 3 years, where the camp was denied food, resulting in starvation and deaths.
The Syrian army began to withdraw in 2003. With greater freedom, many people left the camp, while others began to improve conditions by bringing in materials and looking for informal work. Despite this, Shatila remains without a play area, a proper school, or adequate housing.
Community is strong within the camp, and it is not as dangerous a place as is commonly perceived. Palestinians have expressed their wish for their efforts to be recognized, respected, and supported. There is a hope that an awareness of the situation for Palestinians within the camp will generate sincere progress towards a peaceful, just resolution to their displacement.
The Permanent Peace Movement (PPM) is an independent Lebanese Non-Governmental Organization founded in 1986 at the height of the Lebanese civil war by a group of young university students unified by their common vision for the future and their aversion to war.
They considered that peaceful means for conflict resolution are the most useful of all, and that when these are exhausted, one should resort to non-violent means and never to violence.
Such a commitment to peace building within Lebanon is an incredible challenge – this is a country brimming with domestic tension as members of 18 various sects, within a population of less than 4 million people, have repeatedly entered into violent conflict.
Sectarianism within Lebanon means that political office, government positions, and senior military and security appointments are divided based on the principle of religious balance.
Thus, it appears that for many Lebanese, political, economic or cultural survival is dependent upon occupying positions of power in order to protect the rights and values of their own group. Moreover, divisions within the country are not simply predicated on religion, but on various political ideologies, which further fragment groups.
It is apparent that there are no easy solutions to ending violence and preventing further conflict. Indeed coming from a generation of Canadians which have little experience with war, the situation appears absolutely overwhelming.
The stimulating, challenging and inspiring experiences we are living out during our Solidarity Trip in Lebanon are being added to the blog throughout the summer. But before you continue to see what we did, who we met, and what we learned about peace-building and development, here is more information about Development and Peace’s programming in the Middle East region.
Ever since it’s founding, Development and Peace has been coming to the aid of people in the Arab world who find themselves in difficulty. Here are a few programs you might remember supporting, from a snapshot of our presence and support in the last ten years:
- during the ”war on terrorism”: emergency relief and reconstruction in Afghanistan and in Iraq
- during the huge earthquakes: emergency relief and reconstruction in Iran and in Pakistan
- during and after the Israeli wars: emergency relief and reconstruction in the Palestinian Territories and in Lebanon
Development and Peace is continuing to build and strengthen action for peace and development in the Middle East – that is our goal and you and I are involved in helping to realize this goal through our support of partners in Lebanon.
When individuals from across the nation meet, the label “Canadian” reveals its colorful, multifaceted, and sometimes controversial subtext. Arriving in Our Lady of Fatima camp on the edge of Montreal, the participants of the Development and Peace Solidarity Trip to Lebanon converged to begin with three days of orientation.
There was also training related to inter-cultural communication, group dynamics, and public-awareness raising (sensibilisation in french). We soon became aware of our innate differences and the potential for mistranslation, which gave us the opportunity to explore this wonderful mélange we know as Canada:
Melodie and Steve are from Montreal at UQAM
Amelie and Genevieve are from Ottawa/Gatineau region and help us with translation
Alex and Amanda are from Ontario and Manitoba, and are social workers
Jacques is from Victoria and Angelique is from Montreal, both doing their masters at university
Marie-Helene and Genevieve are our trusty and intrepid organizers
In a few hours we will head to the airport to begin the exciting journey to our long awaited destination of Beirut. Various methods to remediate the anguish of jet lag are being employed, but anticipation will likely keep energy levels high while we shuffle our way out of thrombosis.
Amanda and Jacques
Our aim is to share some of what we learn throughout our journey with you. We expect new and stimulating experiences from the people, the land, and the culture.
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), violence has become a way of life. Violence against women is out of control and rape has become a weapon of war.
In many instances, armed men will overrun a village, attack the inhabitants, rape the women, destroy crops and leave in their wake a path of terror and destruction.
For those who manage to escape, they must return to their villages in the aftermath and try to heal from trauma and re-build their communities with a culture of peace.
This is the story told in ournew graphic novel: ROZA or the Courage to Choose Life, written and illustrated by Congolese artist Séraphin Kajibwami and published by Development and Peace in collaboration with the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). The graphic novel includes an overview of the issues affecting this resource-rich country.
The graphic novel will be launched on Tuesday, April 5th with special guests Sister Marie-Bernard Alima, the secretary general of the Justice and Peace Episcopal Commission of the DRC and Most Rev. Nicolas Djomo, President of the Conference of Bishops of the DRC, both of whom are working to bring peace to their country.
Development and Peace supports several projects in the DRC to strengthen democracy, empower women, ensure fair control of natural resources and establish peace in the country.
Tuesday, April 5th, 2011
Maison de l’Afrique, 6256 Henri-Julien St.
Watch for this graphic novel to be distributed in your region this fall!
Interested? Contact Genevieve Gallant, Youth Programs at Development and Peace: firstname.lastname@example.org 1-800-494-1401 ext 230