Is it the dark side of the moon or what darkness am I reflecting on now? We met a priest last week from DR Congo (DRC), he is a missionary in Bukavu, that side of DRC where the terrible volcanos are erupting right now, particularly in the area of Goma. He came to visit us to learn more on how we started doing Counter Human Trafficking (CHT) work. He even hinted that we might come and do the initial training. Fr Bernard is working with a group of local Sisters helping him to run a center for young girls, 250 of them who are very severely wounded in mind, body and spirit. They are in a high state of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Not only is that country ruled by hundreds of militia groups but women and children are suffering the worst weapon of war which is sexual violence. In fact he told us that it is hard to meet a young woman or girl child who has not met rape and defilement. I came away feeling very sad at one of the examples he shared with us, of a 5 year old girl “who is so damaged both internally and externally that she will never give birth” these were his words. In the African context this is a curse the innocent little girl must live with, the hospital where she was taken did their best and she did survive but the real cost will fall on the most vulnerable in our society and the world at large. This is the kind of darkness I am sharing with you now.
Recently, I met an orphaned girl ‘Cindy’ who had just come back from the burial of her grandmother, she was an elderly lady almost 90 years old. The story which emerged was as horrific as the act itself. The pain, grief and loss coupled with the background of Cindy herself made this whole scenario even more intensely painful. Cindy was orphaned of the only parent she can vaguely recall, then stayed with her grandmother till she was 12 years old. Then she was sent to reside with an uncle and his wife in one of Nairobi’s largest slums. The idea of the people in the far rural community was that she would get better educational opportunities in Nairobi. His wife went to work early and this beastly relative choose to defile the unsuspecting, innocent 12 year old girl. Minutes later ‘to add insult to injury’ he walked outside laughing to himself while Cindy picked herself up from the floor. It was a major trauma to this child and a very dark shadow in her life.
Despite intensive counseling Cindy carries this dark scenario in her head – and it will never go away. After that horrific assault Cindy gathered together her school books and uniform and left the one roomed shack which had been her home for the past month. Where to go now? she had no clue but definitely she was in no mood to face her school-going peers on that awful day. So, she hired herself out as a domestic help to get odd jobs in whatever was available but it meant an end to formal class work. Luckily, she met a community health volunteer of Medical Missionaries of Mary where MMM Sisters run a health center, one of them called Rose assured Cindy that she was always welcome to stay at her place and from time to time she took shelter there.
During the school holidays Cindy went to her grandmother, after all she was the only parent figure in her life. When she returned from the burial of “my Granny” last week I could see that she was totally shattered, the big tears dropped like the onset of heavy rains here in Kenya. Despite the great age of this elderly grandmother, she sold a cow that morning for KShs 14.000/- (125/- to one Euro), to send an orphaned granddaughter to F/1 (start of secondary school year). She bought some shopping items for the girl and stuffed the balance inside her belt. On the way home walking, she diverted into the forest to pick some small sticks for firewood. That simple diversion resulted in her death – ‘Anna’ was robbed, raped and strangulated. Next morning some children also on a short diversion to collect firewood, found her body. To those left behind especially Cindy, these are horrific details of the end of life of the woman she had known and loved so dearly. It underlines again her own personal defilement at 12 years old, and knowing that this uncle still walks free. Whoever is the man who snuffed out the life of an elderly grandmother may never be named. Sadly, we live in a country where corruption is the order of the day. There is nobody to follow-up or name and charge the man who murdered this brave woman in such a ruthless fashion. We salute this extraordinary woman of courage, despite her advanced years, she valued the benefits of education for a child. She had nurtured Cindy well, she also gave thanks to God each day that a Good Samaritan had come to her aid and taken her through secondary education. Cindy was just one point short of university entrance but the same Good Samaritan also sent her on a fifteen month beauty course. She has excelled in her theory and practical exams and values the highly marketable skills she now holds. Now at 20 years old she is set to launch herself on a very worthwhile career.
Now with three stories rolled into one, we have seen very painful personal tragedies in the lives of the feminine gender. Three females who have paid a very high price – and in extremes of age – between the 5 year old and the 90 year old. Does our world have to be such a dark place? What has gone so horribly wrong? Have we spoken so much of the girl child to the detriment of the boy child that this insane and horrific violence is being played out so randomly and for no apparent provocation? Has pornography almost completely overtaken our sexuality? Just as sure that we have a Coronavirus pandemic there is a parallel pandemic in our midst – every bit as prevalent and transmissible as Covid-19. Let’s arm ourselves to fight for our youth and all people who are easily lured and sucked into a vortex of ‘hell’ which can only further work to wreck more havoc in the lives of countless millions in every continent and small village.
Mary O’ Malley, MMM
31st May, 2021