Tuesday, 10 June 2003

Rome (Fides Service) – Here is a moving story of the courage and fidelity to the Gospel of a young woman who gave her life rather than succumb to violence by guerrillas. The tale was sent to Fides Service by the Peace for Congo Catholic association which for years has sought to draw attention to what is happening in that part of Africa. The text was written by Xaverian missionary Father Mario Sciammana.

We enclose the story of Pascasia…one of the many victims of Congo’s militia. It would seem that raping women has become a sport for the militia who compete with each other to see who takes the most girls. Imagine the trauma for these young women when they see militia or even smell their odour.

Fraternal greetings!

Peace for Congo


Pascasia Munguhashire was born in Ngeweshe in 1985. Her father’s name is Cladui Murahanyi and her mother’s name is Venanzia M’Centwali, she was the fourth of many children. Pascasia was baptised at Mugogo. It was also in Mugogo that she made her first Communion and was Confirmed. In 2001 she started a three year course of elementary education at the Annunciata Cochetti school run by the Dorotee Sisters at Cemmo. Like other girls at the school, she attended catechism in preparation for Easter which included a film on the life of Jesus. On April 4 Pascasia and her companions made a day of retreat, they went to Confession and Mass. When she returned home (her parents moved to Bukavu because of the war) she said she would like to visit Mugogo village where she was born, to see an aunt who still lives there. Pascasia said to her sister Mora: “You better not come to Mugogo because you could be raped by the soldiers”. Bora replied: “you are a girl like me, don’t you fear being raped?” Pascasia answered: “I am at peace with everyone: I am sure I will not be raped”.
So Pascasia and one of her brothers set out for Mugogo. When they reached Ciriri they found themselves in the midst of fighting and they were separated. Pascasia arrived alone in Mugogo: the people had fled to the forest and only a few were returning to the village. Pascasia meets four girls she knew who accompanied her to her home. In the house there was only a little maize flour, Pascasia said to her friends: “I am going to look for some lengalenga (grass) to cook for my brother and the others who will be here soon.”
There were RCD soldiers everywhere in the village; they saw Pascasia and tried to catch her. She ran into the house, the men followed. They grabbed Pascasia with the intention of raping her in front of her companions. Pascasia resisted with all her might. To frighten her the soldiers slashed twice at her hands with a large knife. But Pascasia had made up her mind: “Kill me if you want, I will not give in”. The men infuriated and humiliated by her courage sought revenge and one of them fired two bullets at Pascasia’s chest.
Her four friends, unable to defend themselves from so much violence were raped. Despite her wounds Pascasia continued to prepare the lengalenga as if nothing had happened, while blood ran from her chest down her body. When another of her sisters arrived she saw Pascasia in that condition and asked what happened. Pascasia replied: “Look what they did to me because I refused”.
Pascasia feels the pain increasing and asks for her rosary. She tells her sister: “Ask papa to forgive me because I came here without his permission. Ask all those whom I may have offended to forgive me. I forgive those who have offended me. I have here the dress of a friend who had a debt of 100 Congolese Francs”. Pascasia continued to prayer but she cannot finish her rosary: sister death arrives. It was 8 April 2003, Pascasia was only 18.
I remember very well sister Pascasia your virtues, you were obedient and generous. I remember the advice you gave your brothers and sisters: “Never be a stumbling block for anyone”. At school you were an example for the other girls; you avoided chaos and never came late. You loved to sing a beautiful song in Mashi: “I have given my life to Jesus to keep. To whom have you given yours?”
Sister Pascasia your blue eyes speak of heaven. You defended your virginity preferring martyrdom because you had given your life to Jesus. Sister Pascasia, sweet flower of Congo bloodied by war; today you have been planted in Heaven. Pray that the flower of peace may bloom in Mugogo and all over Congo. Father Mario Sciamanna. (Fides Service 10/6/2003 EM lines 56 Words: 798)