[UN-NGO]Sister Angélique is director of a Center for reintegration and education of women in Dungu, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Orientale Province. She came to Geneva to receive the distinguished 2013 Nansen Refugee Award given by the UN High Commission for Refugees. The award was given to this 45 year old religious who works to help thousands of displaced women and girls. They had been forced into the militant group the “Lord’s Resistance Army” and undergone all sorts of violence and atrocities.
On this occasion the University organized a round table with Sister Angélique that gathered several people from the UN High Commission for Refugees, numerous students and their professors, as well as other UN personnel, NGO’s and friends.
A short film showed the activities of Sister Angélique and the work of the Center she created. Persons come to the Center in Dungu after a time of adjustment with the help of the United Nations and UNICEF. Rejected by their families they are stigmatized and left on their own. They arrive pregnant or with one, two or several children born in captivity and find refuge at the Center. Sister Angélique opens her arms and welcomes them, quietly, respectfully, in tears. Words can come later to help with their liberation.
The first goal of the Center is to care for the women: they begin to learn dressmaking; some prepare to go back to school and continue their studies. The children learn to read and write so they can go to school. The different things they make in the workshops and what they grow together in the gardens helps them earn a bit of money to become independent.
The mission of Sister Angélique is closely aligned with that of the Center. She is with the women to help them survive their dehumanizing injuries and to rejoin society. Sister Angélique supports the education of the children and gives a new spirit of hope to everyone. By the education they receive the women forget some of their problems and engage in a process of reconstruction and independence.
By Sister Angélique’s talk, we discovered a simple, attentive woman who responds to others with kindness and friendship. A young woman therapist and professor of psychology at the University of Geneva responded. For fifteen years she worked in a specialized center for asylum seekers in Geneva, for women and children victims of violence, injury and abuse of all kinds. She explained that a woman whose dignity has been violated is still the central pillar of the family, but her sadness reflects on her children and her family. Relating to the experience of Sister Angelica, she placed great emphasis on the care of women, being a discreet presence, respecting their silence, while remaining attentive.
The prize money will be used to create a semi-industrial bakery in the DunguCenter. This will give work for the women and co
ntribute to their family’s independence.
We were three Daughters of Charity. In listening to Sister Angélique we thought of our Sisters in the Democratic
Republic of the Congo and in other places, close to those nameless people undergoing the atrocities of war. We would have liked to say a few words to Sister Angélique but there was no time. She left for Rome where she was to ask the Pope’s blessing for all the people of her Center and for herself.
Thanks for the wonderful witness of courage and friendship.
Geneva, October 3, 2013
Daughters of Charity of Grand Lancy and Sr Monique Javouhey, representative at Geneva
Round Table with Angélique Namaika
For more information on Daughters of Charity at the UN: www.cmdcngo.org