SUMMARY OF REMARKS BY ARCHBISHOP MAROY DURING HIS VISIT TO THE UNITED STATES FROM SEPTEMBER 23rd TO OCTOBER 9th, 2008
Introducing Archbishop Maroy
Archbishop François-Xavier Maroy Rusengo was born in Bukavu, in the province of South-Kivu on the eastern border of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) on September 1, 1959. He was ordained as a priest on August 19, 1984 in Bukavu. On November 22, 2004, he was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Bukavu and Titular Bishop of Thucca in Mauretania by Pope John Paul II. Subsequently, on April 26, 2006, Pope Benedict XVI appointed him Archbishop of Bukavu. Archbishop Maroy has also just been appointed as Manager of the Diocese of Uvira, which is located to the south of South-Kivu.
Archbishop Maroy inherited a chaotic situation; his three predecessors having died, one by assassination, in the ongoing civil wars in the Great Lakes region of eastern Africa. The situation remains in crisis. The Archdiocese counts only about 160 priests and 150 semanarians. Although this represents a basis for hope in the future of the local and universal Church, to guarantee success requires the continued prayerful training of our students in Christ’s teachings and the availability of financial means for their subsistence and support in their communities. The Archdiocese also faces similar needs for the management of pastoral structures and the training of leaders among his “children;” the four million plus inhabitants of the area.
Archbishop Maroy came to the United States on a mission sponsored by GREAT LAKES RESTORATION (GLR) to meet with his church colleagues, such as Archbishop O’Brien of Baltimore and Bishop Murphy of Rockville Centre, New York, and others, to discuss areas of collaborative partnership and to raise awareness concerning the plight of the Great Lakes region and especially the eastern provinces of the DRC. His message concerns the rebuilding of the human spirit and life in the ravaged eastern DRC, through the teaching and the living of Christ’s Gospel. He also sought to warn the United States as to the imminent danger of a renewed outbreak of open warfare; to inform as to the health needs of the people of the region to combat the problems resulting from previous and current conflict, especially as to HIV/AIDS and the victims of rape which has been and remains a weapon of war in the area; and, to request support for education and training so the people of the region can rebuild their lives and countries, but in a manner consistent with their customs and cultures. He brought a current Congolese perspective and the moral voice of one who has lived through and personally experienced the violence and destruction visited on the area in recent years.
The genocide in Rwanda coupled with the collapse of the Mobutu regime in the DRC has spawned over a decade of warfare throughout the Great Lakes region resulting in millions of deaths in the deadliest conflict since World War II. Occurring in a poverty stricken area of the developing world, these wars increased the impact of diseases endemic in the region, such as malaria, as well as the health problems associated with malnutrition and poor sanitation. Further, nowhere is the HIV/AIDS pandemic more widespread than in the Great Lakes region. The physical destruction in terms of health care facilities and infrastructure, which were at best barely adequate prior to wars, has also been devastating, especially in relation to the ever increasing numbers of victims of war and disease.
In addition, these wars have seen the use of rape as a “weapon of war” in the region. Rape is still all too common with many of the victims subjected not only to forcible sexual intercourse, but also to an array of torture and mutilation over extended periods of time. Gender and age offer no protection. Although the vast majority of rape victims are female, men are slowly beginning to come forward with their stories of surviving rape and documented cases of rape have ranged in age from as young as three and to as old as eighty. If the victim survived the trauma of assault, his/her trauma is further increased by infection, disease and social isolation. For women, a pregnancy from rape can result in giving birth to a child that is considered “cursed” by the family and community and she is often forced by societal norms to abandon the child.
In the context of needs and challenges in the region, the consequences of over a decade of war are a growing population defined by disease, poverty, unemployment, and lack of economic and educational opportunities; a healthcare system which is struggling with deficits in facilities, personnel, equipment, supplies and medication and therefore most often unable to cope with the health care needs of the region, and especially to address the physical and psychological trauma of victims of sexual violence and their families; an educational system which is struggling with deficits in facilities, personnel, equipment and supplies, therefore most often not able to provide student’s with a quality education from a young age through university; and an absence of economic institutions able to support the growing demand for economic empowerment for households and businesses to develop or redevelop their livelihoods.
However, the ordinary Congolese needs more for his growth than a mere reconstruction of physical infrastructure; he also needs the structure of hope to lift his spirit to the level where governmental and non-governmental organizations can begin rebuilding a self-perpetrating and sustained human, social, and economic development in the region. The Church, through the institution of the Archdiocese, is the only functioning organization, which stands as a neutral politically, able to bring all the children of God towards a better future. The Archdiocese, by agreement with the government of the DRC has been designated as the manager of health care services throughout South Kivu and is struggling with very limited resources to provide those services.
The three areas of most immediate concern are the education of health care professionals at all levels; the need for essential facilities; and, the need to provide essential services in the local community setting.
The Archbishop proposes that the best vehicle to address these needs is through the Catholic University of Bukavu (UCB) School of Medicine, which is associated with the Provincial Hospital of General Reference (PHGR) which is also located in Bukavu. At the current time it is perhaps unrealistic to expect to be able to implement a functioning program of medical and surgical education. However, there is a pressing need for basic level public health professionals; those who constitute the basic interface between the population and the health care system at the community level, especially in rural areas. The Archbishop believes that a program to train such professionals and combining elements of basic nursing; emergency care; pre-natal and maternity care; teaching as to sanitation and preventative measures (for example, in relation to HIV/AIDS); to provide monitoring for administration of ongoing anti-retroviral medications and outpatient treatment of post-operative patients; and, psychological counseling (especially in the case of the victims of sexual violence), is achievable. Such a program will require a multi-disciplinary approach, but such a program will be able to begin to provide the most necessary personnel to provide basic services in a relatively short period of time.
As to the issue of facilities, the rehabilitation of PHGR will allow the implementation of a telemedicine program in cooperation with the Center for Clinical Global Health Education (CCGHE). This will partially alleviate the problems associated with insufficient numbers of doctors, especially surgeons, and nurses by allowing the expertise of the faculty at Johns Hopkins to be brought to the eastern DRC through CCGHE. As part of the rehabilitation effort a central clinical facility for the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS should be included.
Finally, it is important that these efforts be brought to the village level. The poverty of the populace and the absence any meaningful transportation system means that in the vast majority of cases there is no ability for the populace to seek out health care and treatment when it is desperately needed, much less preventative instruction, pre-emergent or outpatient care. In other words, small local facilities staffed with resident health care workers as described above and supported by UCB and PHGR are a requirement to the recovery of the health care system in the area.
Although there are multiple challenges in DRC, there are also multiple strengths as evidenced by the committed citizens, the Catholic Church and Congolese led organizations that are working with limited or no external resources in the areas of human rights, health, education, and economic empowerment to support the reintegration of families and sustainable development in eastern DRC. These citizens, advocates and organizations are not waiting for international funding or support to start their work, as they have all too often been disappointed by the failure of international resources to reach the people in greatest need. Therefore, they are working to meet the challenges of establishing peace and rebuilding their country. Because of its standing as the only real institution in the area, the Catholic Church through the Archdiocese has become a key player in the reconstruction of the country and its peace building.
The Catholic Church in America has an opportunity to work with the Archdiocese of Bukavu as a sister church in order to share experiences and learn from one another. The opportunity for collaboration with the Archdiocese of Bukavu extends through all its initiatives and involvement in development activities on behalf of the whole community. The Archdiocese of Bukavu is engaged, for example, in the health care, education and the advocacy for human and civil rights. As mentioned above, it currently manages the entire health care system of the region with 16 health zones, including 12 hospitals of general reference and more than 100 health care centers. Given the absence of activity by the current government in education, the Archdiocese has also assumed de facto responsibility for education through the organization of schools from the primary level to UCB which is the only facility of its kind in the eastern DRC. UCB graduates are ranked among the best in the DRC and throughout the Great Lakes region.
Most importantly, the Archdiocese also participates in the vital role of providing a spiritual basis through the teachings of Christ for the process of bringing the peace of Christ to all of Archbishop Maroy’s children. With the challenges of an increasing population and the lack of transportation infrastructure, there is a need to create new parishes and/or to increase the use of new and existing information technology such as radio, television and the internet, where available, to be more effective in this work. In this, he are fully aware that even South Kivu, they have received more than many throughout the world, and that God commands working with other dioceses that are less fortunate. The Archbishop is very open to any plan of collaboration of exchanging experiences, especially gospel related experiences, and information, including clerical personnel for the advancement of the vocational mission of the Church.
Archbishop Maroy thanks you very much for listening to him and giving him the opportunity to meet with you.
+ Francois Xavier MAROY RUSENGO
Archbishop of Bukavu
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