Inspired by Melissa McEwan’s post here on the film about rape in the Congo. The post and the film are good, bu there’s a big silence around the Congolese government’s stance on women’s reproductive rights. Abortion is illegal in the Congo, and health care following illegal abortion is frequently denied.
Amnesty’s international council voted in August 2006 to end the organisation’s former policy of “neutrality” on abortion in favor of supporting access to the procedure for women who have been raped, or whose health will be damaged if they are not allowed to terminate: and to decriminalize abortion so that a woman who has an abortion won’t be prosecuted for it: and to support access to post-abortion healthcare for women who get abortions in countries where they’re illegal. The change was address issues including the widespread use of rape in war zones like the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Since then, eight schools in Northern Ireland have closed or suspended their Amnesty groups and more than two thousand Catholic schools in England and Wales were also – in autumn 2007 – advised to sever their links with Amnesty, following instructions from their bishops. November 2007
Amnesty groups in UK schools write to prisoners of conscience in countries round the world. The adult responsible for the group will usually choose a country or a specific prisoner for the group to write to. These bishops evidently feel that Matthew 25:40-45 is one of those awkward bits of the Bible that Jesus didn’t really mean.
What Jesus really wanted, these bishops think, was for Christians to listen to these stories and wash their hands:
F: That day we were coming from Bukavu. When we reached N., some soldiers stopped the vehicle and made us get out. When soldiers stop vehicles like that, it’s to rob the passengers, but they often take the opportunity to rape the women too. I was with five other women, and we were all raped, there at the side of the road. Then they gathered us together again and told us that they were taking us to their commander. So, like that, we were led off to their camp in the forest. Since there were six of us, when we were presented to the commander, he made the first choice of which woman he would take. Then the other officers made their choice: each officer took a woman. When it’s the commander who chose you, the others can’t touch you. But when he’s had enough of you, he hands you on to others to rape you.
E: One day I went to the fields to gather some manioc leaves. I saw a man dressed in camouflage, the uniform that soldiers wear. That man chased after us. We ran away, but I fell and he raped me. … There were two other girls with me. … I fell over. I cried out and my friends ran off. No-one came to help me. … He hurt me. It was bad. … After he’d raped me he left me there. I got up and went back home. … I’ve only got my mum. My father isn’t with us anymore. … During the war my father fled. He hasn’t come back. …
My mother asked me, “Why didn’t you bring back the vegetables?” I burst out crying and I told her what had happened. Afterwards she said, “Come on, we’re going to see the doctor”. … The doctor said that since this man had raped me, I was no longer normal like the other girls.
We listen to the women, try to help them psychologically, help them to get medical care, and we try to give them a small amount of money, because typically the soldiers who rape the women will also take everything they own, even down to their clothes and cooking pots. And many women have been rejected by their husbands and are left on their own to look after the children, to find shelter and food for them. Many of the children are badly undernourished. So we try to give them something, when we have it, so they can start up again on their own: a small amount so they can buy and sell food at the markets and make a little profit, or some seed or a hoe.
But there are many problems. Even though they say the war is over, I can tell you it is still here. There are many villages where the women are not assisted, are abandoned to themselves. And the women are scared. Our own workers receive threats too. Two weeks ago, as I was on my way to K., I was threatened by three soldiers who said that we exaggerate the rapes and tried to take the documents I was carrying. They are worried that we are divulging all their secrets. We are regularly called in for questioning. We don’t keep our files here. We send them to G., for security.
From Catholic News:
Kate Gilmore, exec of AI: “Amnesty International’s position is not for abortion as a right but for women’s human rights to be free of fear, threat and coercion as they manage all consequences of rape and other grave human rights violations.”
Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace:
To selectively justify abortion, even in the cases of rape, is to define the innocent child within the womb as an enemy, a ‘thing’ that must be destroyed. How can we say that killing a child in some cases is good and in other cases it is evil?
I believe that, if in fact Amnesty International persists in this course of action, individuals and Catholic organizations must withdraw their support because, in deciding to promote abortion rights, AI has betrayed its mission.
Who has betrayed their mission?
Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’