Congo Week: College, area refugees in common cause

October 19, 2015

Saint Michael’s College students and professors, along with members of the Burlington Congolese community, will come together for the College’s fifth annual commemoration of Congo Week, October 25-31. The joint celebration of Congo Week reflects the partnership which has developed between the Burlington Congolese community and Saint Michael’s College.

On Sunday night, October 25, at 7 p.m. in the Chapel of Saint Michael the Archangel, a Congolese choir will perform at a Mass for the People of Congo, at which Congolese martyr for peace Archbishop Christophe Munzihirwa, who was assassinated in the first Congo war, will be remembered.

Jason Stearns, author of Dancing in the Glory of Monsters: The Collapse of the Congo and the Great War of Africa, will keynote the week with a speech entitled, “Hope for Congo?” on Thursday, October 29 at 7 p.m. in Cheray Lecture Hall.

The student group SMC for DRC (formerly, the Dear Hillary Campaign for the Congo) which includes Congolese students, works to raise awareness on campus and in the community of the ongoing needs of the people of Eastern Congo in the aftermath of the two Congo wars. Its members sell bracelets to raise money for Congolese women who are survivors of rape, and have begun the Conflict-free Campus Initiative that would require the College to purchase electronic goods from companies whose supply chains are not fed by warlord-controlled mines in the DRC.

At the same time a group of Saint Michael’s College professors (Trish Siplon, Laurence Clerfeuille, Laurie Gagne and Katherine Kirby)  meet regularly to manage the projects of Ibutwa, a non-profit organization founded by Congolese refugee and Saint Michael’s alum, Cleophace Mukeba, to provide medical assistance, a sustainable livelihood and children’s school fees for rape victims in Eastern Congo.

Peace accords in 2002 officially ended the Congo Wars, but outbreaks of violence and rape have continued in Eastern Congo. The Saint Michael’s community first focused on the needs of the people of Congo at the request of Cleophace Mukeba, who spent seven years in refugee camps before coming to the U.S. He and another leader of the Burlington Congolese community, Paul Gatanga, are driven by a pressing need to help the families and friends they left behind.

Information: Laurie Gagne: 802.654.2205

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