“The power of darkness will be defeated. We must respond to violence with love.”
Dr. Denis Mukwege
One night in October 2012, armed men attacked the house of Dr. Denis Mukwege and killed his security guard. They had waited in the doctor’s house until he arrived, some reports say for about twenty minutes. It was clear that robbery wasn’t the gunmen’s motive. They opened fire and fled after a series of gunfire but failed to assassinate the doctor. He temporarily sought safety with his family in Stockholm a week later.
Dr. Mukwege is a Congolese gynecologist who founded the Panzi Hospital in Bukjavu where he specializes in helping women who have been gang-raped by Rwandan militia.1 He is well-renowned for repairing internal parts of women brutally raped and broken physically and emotionally from the conflict-torn Congolese region. He performed as many as 10 operations a day to repair badly-damaged rape victims some of whom walked into the hospital literally fighting for their lives. As much as 3,000 sexually abused females are said to be treated every year in the Panzi Hospital.
The doctor has been outspoken about the violence against women in the Democratic Republic of Congo. His strong speech at the United Nations denouncing the Congolese government of allowing mass rapes to go on unabated did not put him in good standing with his government. The shameless sexual violence on women in the Congolese Republic has been so rampant that the United Nations has called it the “rape capital of the world,” a label once given to India.
Not many would venture into a profession of healing women victimized by brutal violence like Dr Mukwege did, knowing that there are security risks at stake for himself and his family. Where there are victims, there are criminals who would no doubt exert efforts to silence their victims and whoever attempts to help them. But Dr. Mukwege’s dedication to his work has only served to further inspire people. His return home three months after his assassination attempt amidst a roaring and elated crowd showed living proof of the kind of inspiration he has become. His presence has not only heightened his countrymen’s hope of a better tomorrow for the Congolese Republic but has also emboldened them to stand up strongly against sexual violence.
Yes, returning to his country that continues to struggle for peace is like walking back through a storm, not knowing exactly when the danger will be over until the storm subsides and ends.
But he goes on persevering, patient and full of hope that the violence against women in his country will end one day. He knew that to help hasten the healing of women brutally raped and tortured, responding with violence would not beget healing but instead drag the victims deeper into a state of mental and emotional darkness. So he leads by example, giving the victims the physical and emotional support of love and compassion they need during their time of healing. In his words, “The power of darkness will be defeated. We must respond to violence with love.” These women will live and one day see and appreciate the brightness of day once more because heroes like Dr. Denis Mukwege continue to walk in our world of chaos trying to make it a better place to live in. We too can do the same…because lives matter.
By Lylin Aguas