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Mary Immaculate College hosts a multi-disciplinary seminar focusing on the plight of children and women in the DR Congo

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By admin - Posted on 17 March 2014

Original press release here

SOS Congolese Youth and Mary Immaculate Chaplaincy in partnership with MIC Students' Union recently hosted a multi-disciplinary seminar, entitled Make it Stop: Violence against Women and Children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as part of  MIC's programme of events during Limerick's reign as  National City of Culture 2014.

In addition to the various talks on the current plight facing the most vulnerable within the DRC's society the seminar included musical performances from the Elikya Choir and an art exhibition entitled 'The Impact of violence against women and children in conflict regions' by artist and human rights activist Ms. Nhono Tambidila, founder of Congolese Women in Ireland.  Attendees were also afforded the opportunity to sample some of the culinary delights from the Congo region.

Welcoming everyone to the event Prof. Michael A. Hayes, President of MIC, said;

"Mary Immaculate College is Ireland's largest Catholic College with a strong and explicit commitment to social justice and human rights. A core principle at the heart of our mission statement is to foster a spirit of justice and compassion in the service of others, together with an openness to the religious tradition and values of each individual and this event is in keeping with our mission".

Continuing he said that the purpose of the seminar was two-fold in that it offered the College community an opportunity to learn about the culture, music and people of the DRC. In addition the seminar aimed to raise awareness of what has been termed 'The Forgotten Holocaust' in which 5.4 million people have lost their lives since 1998, women and children being amongst the most vulnerable.

Speaking at the event Maurice Kilangala, founder of SOS Congolese Youth and event organiser, said;

"This seminar at Mary Immaculate College provides an excellent opportunity to explore the complex issue of violence against women and children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I hope that the academic community in Limerick and the wider community in Ireland take action to end the suffering of people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo where over 5.4 million people have died in the last twenty years".


Keynote speaker at the seminar was Dr. John Lannon, (Kemmy Business School, UL and President of Campaign for Democracy in the Congo) who said;

"Ironically one of the reasons we still need to give aid to the DR Congo is that it is such a vast country with immense economic resources. Because of those resources it has been at the centre of years of war and suffering. You've had government forces, supported by Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe, against rebels backed by Uganda and Rwanda. And you've had millions of innocent people - especially women and children - caught in the middle, with nobody protecting their basic human rights."

Another keynote speaker was Ms. Charlotte Lunzala, President of the Women's League of the UDPS, Belgium; who said;

"I hope that people hear the message loud and clear. Violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo must stop and it can stop. The will of the people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, when they voted in the 2011 elections, must be recognized. Human rights must be respected. When we have real democracy and the rule of law in the DRC we will have peace".

Also speaking was Ms. Tracey Ratidzai Ohajunwa, Law and Human Rights Activist, who shared this advice with the seminar attendees;

"Lots of people in Ireland don't know about the Democratic Republic of the Congo and find it hard to relate to the situation there. However, people need to know about it. Over two million women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have been raped and one in three children of school going age never go to school. Rape is routinely used as a weapon of war. We can act to change this situation. Little things like buying fair trade produce when possible and making sure that when we buy a computer or a mobile phone that it does not contain any materials that were sourced in a war zone is so important".


Other speakers included Mr. Arnold N. Kashembe, Director of the Global Peace Foundation; Patricia Kieran, Lecturer in Religious Education, MIC and Mr. Donat Mabana from SOS Congolese Youth and compere on the day was Lylian Fotabong, SOS Congolese Youth and Africa Officer, UL.