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HEAL Africa provides holistic care for the people of Democratic Republic of Congo
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Remarks by Senator Richard J. Durbin

Assistant Majority Leader, United States Senate

The US Holocaust Memorial Museum

July 26, 2011

At the US Holocaust Memorial Museums recent “Voices of Congo Conference”, Senator Durbin, Congo advocate and friend of HEAL Africa, made the following remarks:

I want to thank Mike Abramowitz for that generous introduction. I also want to thank the co-hosts of this important conference, The US Holocaust Memorial Museum, The National Endowment for Democracy, and The Eastern Congo Initiative. I am particularly honored to share a program with Annie Chebeya and the brave leaders from the Democratic Republic of Congo who are here today.

I have travelled to Congo twice - in 2005 and again in 2010. It is a nation of breathtaking natural beauty, rich in natural resources. It is also a badly broken country, dominated by relentless poverty, war lords, pillaging soldiers, and horrific, almost incomprehensible, violence. The barbaric civil war in Congo is the most lethal conflict since World War II.

More than 1,100 women and girls are raped every day in Congo. That is nearly one woman every minute. That is the worst record of sexual violence of any nation on Earth. The victims are usually raped by several men at a time in front of family members and neighbors. The rapes are often followed by mutilation and torture. Women who survive are often stigmatized and abandoned by their families. Many are shunned because their rapes are so violent they can no longer control bodily functions. This form of sexual terrorism not only mutilates its victims physically and psychologically; it destroys entire families and society itself.

Like Cindy McCain, I have been to the HEAL Africa hospital in Goma and seen the miraculous work they do there to restore health and dignity to survivors of sexual violence. I visited HEAL Africa in 2005, on a trip with Senator Sam Brownback. I went back in 2010, with Senator Sherrod Brown. Dr. Jo Lusi, who founded the hospital with his wife Lyn, said: "I can't believe you came the first time, but no one ever comes back!"

Click here to read the full text of the speech.

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