By Alejandro Freixes, CCNN Head Writer
In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in Africa, the brutal Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) ruins the lives of innocent villagers. The LRA leader, Joseph Kony, has 200-500 fighters in his violent group and is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes.
In the midst of this darkness, Sister Angelique Namaika, a Catholic nun, has helped more than 2,000 women and girls that were either abused or forced from their homes by the rebels. Now, the United Nations (UN) is honoring her with the Nansen Refugee Award for her actions in Orientale, the north-eastern region of the DRC.
Sister Angelique told the BBC that she teaches refugees “sewing, cooking and baking in order to help them generate some income” and her goal is for them to become “financially independent.” Through her Centre for Reintegration and Development, the heroic nun has positively transformed the lives of countless women who suffered torture, beatings, kidnappings, and slavery at the hands of the savage LRA. Many of the innocents she’s assisted have taken to affectionately calling her “mother.”
Since 2008, an estimated 320,000 people from Orientale have been forced to run from the LRA violence. Sister Angelique was one of those thousands who was displaced in 2009 from the town of Dungu, and knows first-hand the pain of leaving behind the warmth of home.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Antonio Guterres, is proud of Sister Angelique. He says, “These women’s lives have been shattered by brutal violence and displacement. Sister Angelique has proven that even one person can make a huge difference in the lives of families torn apart by war. She is a true humanitarian heroine.”
Even with all the difficulties involved in healing such deep wounds, Guterres knows the nun is dedicated. “Sister Angelique works tirelessly to help women and girls who are extremely vulnerable due to their trauma, poverty and displacement. The challenges are massive, which makes her work all the more remarkable –she doesn’t allow anything to stand in her way.”
The new Nansen winner brushes off the flattery, but is grateful for the award. She explains: “It is difficult to imagine how much the women and girls abused by the LRA have suffered. They will bear the scars of this violence for their whole lives. This award will mean more displaced people in Dungu can get the help they need to restart their lives. I will never stop doing all I can to give them hope, and the chance to live again.”
Images and video courtesy of UNHCR.