The cost of inaction

Martin Luther King, Jr. stated, "Man's inhumanity to man is not only perpetrated by the vitriolic actions of those who are bad, it also perpetrated by the vitiating inaction of those who are good."

It has been about six months since I first learned of the atrocities occuring in Congo. After reading some non-fiction books about the genocide in Rwanda, I stumbled across Lisa Shannon's A Thousand Sisters: My Journey to the World's Worst Place to be a Woman  I learned that many of the perpetrators of the genocide in Rwanda moved to the Congo and have been committing atrocities there. According to a New York Times article published yesterday, "New Study Suggests Higher Incidence of Rape in Congo", over 400,000 Congo women were raped in a year. For the last 15 years, multiple militias and even the government troops are accused of using rape as a weapon of war and conflict. Women who live there are in constant danger of being attacked and can do little to make their lives safer. Victims of the violence also include children.

I  know horrible things happen all over the world, including some in our own country. Why care so much about women across the world instead of focusing on issues in my own nation? I think the situation in Congo has affected me so because of the magnitude of suffering and the global lack of attention to the atrocities. How could something so heinous happen for 15 years without being addressed? What does it say about us as a nation that this has been occurring since the mid 1990's and there has been only a hushed public outcry? Yet as a nation, we have taken notice of other human rights violations affecting much smaller numbers.

For example in February, when it was estimated that 300 people  had died in Libya at the hands of the government, the public demanded that it must be stopped. President Obama stated "These actions violate international norms and every standard of common decency." Are the millions of women who have been raped, the 5.4 million killed, and the 1 million displace in Congo any less important? It certainly seems so. Once I learned of these atrocities, I knew I could not turn my back and pretend I never learned of them.

In Shannon's A Thousand Sisters, she spoke at length about Women for Women International's sponsorship programs. For $30 a month, people can sponsor a woman in Congo. Women for Women International encourages sponsors to write to the women they sponsor. Shannon emphasized that although the money helps the women immensely, knowing that someone cares about what they have experienced is immeasurable to the women. Some survivors carry the letters sent by sponsors for months
to help them find strength in the face of multiple assaults. The women need our support. Although I cannot afford to sponsor a women, I choose to spend time writing letters to electronics companies, my Senator, Representative in the House, Hillary Clinton, and President Obama. I also sign petitions and try to spread the word about this important cause. This sends a message to the survivors that we care enough to help them be safe. I ask that you consider doing the same. It takes only 15 minutes a week to send letters and sign petitions. Doing so  encourages our leaders to participate in diplomatic measures that will help stop the atrocities.

For more information for how you can help, please visit Raise Hope for Congo and A Thousand Sisters.


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