Catholic comic raising awareness of struggles in the Congo

By 
  • November 23, 2011

The Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace has created a new comic book as an educational tool to raise awareness of the struggles faced by those in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“We believe in the power of youth to change the world and that they hold the future in their hands,” said Shelley Burgoyne, youth programs officer at Development and Peace. “So by reaching out to them in such a dynamic format we really hope to raise awareness of the struggles of our brothers and sisters in the (Congo) and encourage our Canadian youth to speak out.”

Roza or the Courage to Choose Life recounts the pillage of a village in South Kivu that is plagued by conflict due to struggles between armed groups to control local mining resources. It illustrates how local villager Roza is able to unite her community as it works to improve the lives of its people through education and forgiveness, said Burgoyne.

Produced by Development and Peace in collaboration with the Congo’s Episcopal Justice and Peace Commission, run by the Congolese bishops, and with funding from the Canadian International Development Agency, distribution of the comic began in October. The comic was written by Congolese artist Séraphin Kajibwami.

“The message that we tried to get across is that development starts within the community,” said Burgoyne, which is shown through the start-up of literacy training groups for women and through the community’s growing of its own crops.

The comic was originally written in French and Swahili and it was used as an awareness-raising tool in South Kivu.

It was inspired by the Reconciliation, Reconstruction and Reviving Production Skills of Communities in South Kivu project which aims at reintegrating victims of sexual violence and ex-child soldiers into their communities through literacy, employment training and community mobilization.

“Our first batch was sent to our animators across the country,” said Burgoyne. “The animators have presented the comic at workshops for youth and adults during the fall campaign season. The reaction they’ve had has been overwhelmingly positive and we’re busy shipping out more copies to diocesan groups, parishes, schools and individuals who are really excited to have another great tool to work with youth.”

The comic’s intended audience is young people between the ages of 15 and 30, said Burgoyne.

“We think it’s important for them to see the work the Church through Development and Peace is doing to promote sustainable human development.”

The comic is the first in a series that will feature African countries where Development and Peace is working with partner organizations to affect social change, she said. It is available in both English and French.

“It’s also an important educational tool about the link between mineral extraction, the war and our consumption,” she said. “So many of us carry cellphones and have gadgets and aren’t aware of the elements needed to produce them, where they come from and how they’re sourced.”

Since the printing of the comic, several communities in the South Kivu region, including Roza’s, are experiencing a resurgence in violence. Villages are once again being pillaged, disrupting all the efforts of the men and women who want to mobilize and rebuild.

To view the graphic novel online, see www.youth.devp.org/action-drc/ or to order printed copies contact Burgoyne at shelley.burgoyne@devp.org.

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