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Home WHAT’S NEW A SCHOOL DEDICATED TO PEACE FOR CONGOLESE CHILDREN

A SCHOOL DEDICATED TO PEACE FOR CONGOLESE CHILDREN PDF Print E-mail

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This article appeared in the Assumptionist magazine published in France entitled Le Pèlerin (The Pilgrim). Every year they have a special campaign for one Assumptionist work in particular need of funding. This year they have chosen the Beni School Complex and its many needs.

I thought it would be interesting to send you the article with the following translation. There is one drone-taken photo that is really striking that provides an overview of the entire complex with the city of Beni in the background now estimated, with it suburbs, to have nearly half a million residents, including internal refugees.

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p. 24 Front page

A Special Report

A SCHOOL DEDICATED TO PEACE FOR CONGOLESE CHILDREN

In one of the most dangerous regions of Africa, North Kivu (Democratic Republic of the Congo/DRC), children learn to write, to count, and to live in peace. The school complex, Prince of Peace, was founded by the Assumptionists, just as this magazine was. This Advent, we call your attention to this hope-filled project.

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p. 25

photo caption: this student is attempting to compose numbers on her slate. Today this Catholic school houses 500 students from pre-K through high school, aged 3 to 19. The orphans of war are in a minority as the school also welcomes children of other families.

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p. 26

photo caption (found on p. 27): Aimée Kavugho Mahango, a second-grade teacher, corrects slates during a math class.

Text: This school exists for students like Kambale, 10 years old. Last January 8, armed men attacked his village, Maimoya, 40 kilometers north of Beni. They killed his father and kidnapped his mother. If they didn’t disembowel the mother, it was simply because she was pregnant, they said, even as they manhandled her. How can one grow up when he has experienced such a tragedy? The school tries to respond to this crying need.

“In the face of the suffering of street children, wandering through the streets of Beni after witnessing their parents being massacred in their villages, the Assumptionists had to act.”  Fr. Protais Kabila, then the provincial of the Assumptionists in the eastern region of the DRC (the capital of which is Kinshasa) still recalls that day in 2016 when he convinced his confrères to build a school. But not just any kind. For these orphans of war, the teaching would be centered on non-violence. Its name describes an entire program: Peace of Peace. With money given by friends, he built 8 classrooms on a piece of the Congregation’s property on the outskirts of downtown Beni, an ever-growing metropolis, with 100,000 in the city center alone.

“In addition to a basic traditional curriculum, I insisted that we speak of friendship, dialogue and reconciliation, by employing games and mini-plays,” he explained. “By use of these skits, the children would re-learn a sense of traditional welcome, which has given way today to distrust and fear of the stranger.” “Three times a week we speak of the Gospel to the children,” explained the actual director, Fr. Matabishi Kalondero. “We would like to bring the youngsters wounded by war to renounce a desire for revenge. If they had remained on the streets, they would have easily been recruited as boy-soldiers by one faction or another. Thanks to this work in common, I see them blossom and become happy.”

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p. 27 three photos

photo #2 The children prepare the daily salute of the Congolese flag. The colors represent peace (sky blue), the blood of martyrs (red), prosperity (yellow), and unity (yellow star).

Photo #3 In the afternoon, remedial classes allow students who didn’t have an opportunity to learn how to read in elementary school -----often because their village suffered from armed conflict in the region---- to get up to speed, as these teenagers are doing. The school administration takes pride in offering a formation among the best in the city, without receiving any government assistance. Tuition is covered by families that can afford it. “The poor pay nothing,” said the director.

Photo #4 “O zealous people/By your labor/We will build a country more beautiful than before/In peace.” The children intone the national anthem every morning before school begins.

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p. 28

text: For nearly a quarter of a century, in fact, North Kivu has felt the effects of tensions with their neighbors, Uganda and Rwanda. Armed factions have been financed by these governments to combat rebel groups that have taken refuge in Kivu. Today many of these groups survive thanks to various kinds of trafficking (charcoal, minerals, etc.) and exacting ransoms for kidnapped residents. Soldiers from the Congolese army, poorly paid, often engage in banditry as well. The principal threat to the region of Beni comes from a fundamentalist Islamic group of Ugandan origin, the ADF (Allied Democratic Forces). Every week they massacre dozens of peasants, often in retaliation for army offensives. They are the ones who killed Kambale’s father. The ADF may have been behind the kidnapping ---- still no one has claimed responsibility--- of the three Assumptionist priests near Beni in 2012. They have never been seen since. Which is also the case of two Catholic diocesan priests kidnapped in 2017. This all explains the urgency, among the Assumptionists, to support the development of this “school for peace.”

Photo #1 A drone photo shows the recreation yard with children shouting for joy.

Photo #2 Another drone photo shows the primary school (13 classrooms and several offices). But the secondary school only has 4 classrooms (for Grades 7 and 8). “Construction continues as students make their way to the upper grades and the student body grows,” explains Fr. Salvator Musande, the provincial treasurer of the Assumptionists in the Congo.  To arrive at the 30 classrooms we need for a full secondary education (Grades 9-12), we foresee the need to build three-four every year.” A brick classroom, equipped with desks, costs approximately 10,000 euros ($12,000).

Photo #3 Behind the map of Africa, one can see the portrait of Fr. Emmanuel d’Alzon (1810-1880), the founder of the Assumptionists, who oversee the school. They are also the ones who founded this magazine!

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p. 29

another drone-photo of children in the school courtyard

The rest of the page is a column requesting gifts from the magazine’s readers.

 Click here to view the original report

Translated by Fr. John Franck, A.A.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 09 December 2020 11:58
 
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