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Denis Mukwege, the champion of women in the world

by Gabriele Nissim

Gabriele Nissim with Denis Mukwege

Gabriele Nissim with Denis Mukwege

The speech follows by Gabriele Nissim, President of Gariwo, on the occasion of the visit of Nobel Prize Denis Mukwege to Milan Garden of the Righteous.

On behalf of the Association for the Garden of the Righteous - City of Milan, Gariwo UCEI - that I represent here, I want to make a promise to Dr Mukwege, Nobel Peace Prize 2018: we will not allow indifference towards Africa to prevail in our country. Italy, as Mukwege recalled, is the country of missionaries, of Pope Francis, is the country having a compassionate soul towards those who suffer, and we want it to preserve its moral character just before European elections.
And, even if some continue to sow hatred towards African peoples, we will continue acting differently with all civil society associations.

This is the task of the Righteous. Substitute institutions when they take the wrong direction and preserve the values of humanity in any possible way.
But what does preserve the moral character mean?

First of all I would like to say that we are with Denis Mukwege in his battle at the United Nations for mass rapes to be considered as a crime against humanity and for a court to be created to judge them. At the last moment, half an hour before the vote, the United States, Russia and China watered down the UN resolution and ruled out an international policy to punish rapists. They had a very simple reason to do it: they did not want these decisions to affect their soldiers abroad.

Such stance is shameful because it prevents protecting women who are victims of violence. It is however something more: it leaves women alone in Congo and in other countries, because these women who were harassed and raped are rejected and pushed away from their communities.If war rape is not considered as a crime against humanity, perpetrators of rapes will always go unpunished.

I would also like to tell Mukwege that we will strive to raise awareness in Italy and in Europe on the tragedy of a country having millions of victims of fratricidal clashes and women who have become the centre of persecution.

Although we talk of memory of genocides, we are often unable to prevent such new mass atrocities from occurring again. A UN report, the Mapping Report, has documented it, but nobody has taken any account of it at international level. Why has this happened? Because Congo is extremely rich in mines of gold, Coltan, cobalt, uranium, where thousands of men and women are exploited for cheap mining. It is Congo’s Coltan that allows us to have cheap mobile phones. We need to turn these blood mines into development mines, as Mukwege asked us to do. We must prevent tying contracts and underpaid workers and we must publicly report these practices.

On the one hand, we reject migrants who come to Europe with our selfishness; on the other hand, for our wellbeing we prevent exploitation from ending, which leads to gang wars and migrations. Today 130 armed groups have turned women and children into a battlefield in fratricidal wars.

Based on the experience of this Garden I would like to say that, among honoured individuals, Denis Mukwege can offer young people the highest moral example. Dr Mukwege risks his life every day in his job, because gangs of rapists would like to silence him. He emerged unscathed from many attacks and has never accepted to be intimidated.

I would like to remind you that Mukwege is not only an indignant African intellectual, but that in his Panzi hospital (we all remember this name) he has taken care of fifty thousand women and as a surgeon and as a man he has committed every day to restore their dignity. Not only does he save their lives, but he also fights for psychological recovery of the victims. In tribal societies, doing justice to women also means having them accepted by their families of origin, who consider them as women who sold their bodies to the enemy.

I would like to remind you that Mukwege is a citizen of the world because he fights for women raped in all genocides (Bosnia, Colombia, Syria, Iraq, Central African Republic) not to be forgotten. The surgeon does not only take care of the pain of women in his country, but also of that of women all over the world. It is a lesson for all those who only look at their own sufferings. Mukwege is a man who fights for universal justice. We may define him as the great champion of women of all humanity.

I would like to remind you that he is a man who not only calls for justice, but who also fights to give humanity tools to prevent these war rapes by asking for suitable institutions. According to Mukwege, it is not sufficient to condemn, to judge perpetrators, it is necessary to educate African societies to overcome all prejudices against women.

But what amazed me the most in this man who works in hell is his high hope for the future. He continues to obstinately think that justice and love will soon triumph and change his country.

I have never been before such an extraordinary man who makes us understand that evil can be overcome if one has faith not only in God, but also in humanity.

Those who experience evil sometimes become worse and often ask for revenge; Mukwege, on the contrary, conveys hope in human beings, despite everything.

Translated by Valentina Gianoli 

Gabriele Nissim, President of Gariwo

Analysis by Gabriele Nissim, President of Gariwo

23 May 2019

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