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Nobel Prize nominee decries sexual violence in the Congo

Denis Mukwege speaks to the USC community at the Caruso Catholic Center. (USC Photo/Larissa Puro)

Denis Mukwege, Nobel Peace Prize nominee, gynecologist and advocate against sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, called upon the USC community to take action in his talk at the USC Caruso Catholic Center on Oct. 7.

Using a translator, Mukwege addressed approximately 200 students, faculty and local Congolese. A Q&A session followed, led by Janice Kamenir-Reznik MSW ’75, co-founder of Jewish World Watch. He received two standing ovations.

During his talk, Mukwege emphasized that the pervasive rape and sexual violence in war-torn Congo are weapons of war.

“After someone has been killed, people grieve and things just move on,” he said. “But when you rape a girl in front of her parents, or a woman in front of her husband, then you destroy the whole community” and inflict trauma and disease that span generations.

In the midst of the Congo wars, Mukwege founded the Panzi Hospital in 1998 to treat and rehabilitate survivors of sexual violence and women with severe gynecological problems.

In addition to treating patients, he now travels the world to raise awareness and inspire the political will needed to end sexual violence in the Congo.

In 2012, he spoke to the United Nations General Assembly.

“How can one be proud of belonging to a nation without defense, fighting itself, completely pillaged and powerless in the face of 500,000 of its girls raped during 16 years — six million of its sons and daughters killed during 16 years without any lasting solution in sight?” he asked.

Shortly after, he survived an assassination attempt at his home, where one of his guards was killed in the fray.

He said he hopes the USC community will embody the pledge of the Jewish World Watch: “Do not stand idly by.”

“When you are indifferent, any kind of tragedy can happen because people have the impression that they are not connected, it’s not their problem,” he said. “So, my hope today is that students can not only be connected to what is going on in the Congo … but to say, ‘What is going on in the Congo is not acceptable.’ ”

USC will soon launch the initiative “Fight on for Congo” to mobilize students in support of Congolese women and children. For more information, email Michael Jeser at michael@jww.org.

The event was hosted by the USC Institute for Global Health, USC Office of Religious Life, Caruso Catholic Center, USC Hillel, Jewish World Watch, USC Center for Religion & Civic Culture and USC Spectrum.

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Nobel Prize nominee decries sexual violence in the Congo

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