Sister Angelique: Bringing Refugees Hope

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Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Ryan Geertsma.

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And I’m Robin Basselin. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

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Simone was 14 years old when her life changed forever. She was sitting in her village school in the Democratic Republic of Congo. A group of rebel soldiers surrounded the school.  They were from the Lord’s Resistance Army or the LRA. The soldiers kidnapped all the students. They taught the goys to fight and become soldiers. They forced the girls to marry and have sex with other LRA soldiers. If the children resisted, the LRA soldiers beat or killed them.

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Life with the LRA was difficult for Simone. Soon she became pregnant. She had a baby boy when she was only 15 years old. Every day, Simone lived in fear.  She worried that soldiers would kill her or her son. After a year and a half, Simone finally escaped.

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Simone was free from the LRA. But she was alone and afraid. Then, she met Sister Angelique Namaika. Sister Angelique helped Simone heal and become independent again. Today’s Spotlight is on Sister Angelique and the ways she is caring for female victims of the Lord’s Resistance Army.

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Sister Angelique Namaika has always known what she wanted to do with her life. When she was 9 years old, she lived in the town of Lege, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. She remembers a German nun who visited the town. Angelique watched this female religious worker care for the sick. The nun gave out medicine and talked with the people who came to her. Angelique decided then that she wanted to become a nun too. She told the Thomas Reuters Foundation, 

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“There was so much work to do. The nun did not have time to eat or rest. I told myself I will do everything I can to become like her. I will help her, so that she may rest.”

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And this is exactly what Angelique did. In 2000, Sister Angelique completed the necessary studies to become a nun. In 2003, she began working in the town of Dungu. Dungu has many refugees. These refugees are victims of LRA violence. Like Simone, many of the women and young girls were kidnapped by the LRA. They suffered much fear and violence. They have escaped from the LRA, but they still suffer many problems.

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Most of the refugees in Dungu do not own land. They also do not speak the local language. Many of the young girls have very little education They have not learned any skills to support themselves or their children. So they have no way to earn money.  Sister Angelique quickly recognized what she needed to do. She told the Thomas Reuters Foundation,

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“We have to help women to become independent. They need to support themselves and their families without being forced to depend on their husbands. That way they learn their true value.”

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So Sister Angelique started teaching the women the local language. She teaches them how to read and write. And she listens to their stories. Often by talking together the women find support. They discover they are not alone. They are a community.

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Sister Angelique also teaches the women skills they can use to earn money. She teaches some women to sew clothes. Once they are skilled, they can make school clothes and other thins to sell in the market. Sister Angelique teaches other women to cook foods such as bread. They can sell this food in the market or by visiting houses in the community. Sister Angelique even helped a group of women start a garden. Together they panted seeds and cared for the plants. The women used the vegetables and foods from the garden to feed their families. And they sold what remained.

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After a few years, Sister Angelique opened a centre in Dungu. It is called the Centre for Reinsertion and Development Support or CRAD. At this centre, she can teach many women at one time. The women can also come there to use common resources. But some women live too far away from the centre. So Sister Angelique rides her two wheeled bicycle to visit them.

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But Sister Angelique’s efforts do not just concentrate on teaching the women. A major part of her work is helping the women re-enter society. She works to help their communities accept them again. Sister Angelique told the Catholic News Service the story of one 14 year old girl.

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“One problem she had was that she was rejected by her mother. Her mother said that the girl was responsible or being caught by the LRA. I gave the girl guidance and information. Then I ent to her mother’s house to help the mother and daughter talk and understand each other. So the two of them, the mother and the girl, they made peace and today they are on good terms. The girl is happy because she felt love.”

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In 2013, the United Nations Refugee Agency recognized Sister Angelique’s efforts. The organization gave her the UNHRC’s Nansen Award. This major award is given once a year to a person or group doing very good work to help refugees. But for Sister Angelique, the award is not just for her. She told the Al Jazeera news organization,

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“The award is for the women. I hope it will help us with the basic work of helping them get an education and earn a living. People just want to be a part of something. This helps fight the pain and suffering that comes from their difficult experiences.”

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Over the years, Sister Angelique has helped more than 2,000 women and children affected by the LRA. Bu she does not do this work to win awards or become famous. Sister Angelique described to Perspective Magazine how her Christian faith encourages her to work.

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“The Lord identifies with those who suffer. So when I meet a suffering person I recognize that it is God appearing before me asking for help. Even if I have to get up in the middle of the night. I have to do it. I trust in God. It is He who gives me the courage and strength to keep on working.”

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And Sister Angelique shows no signs of stopping. She has given her life to serve victims and refugees. She told the Thomas Reuters Foundation,

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“I will never stop doing all I can to give them hope and the chance to live again.”

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The writer of this program was Courtney Schutt. The producer was Mark Drenth. The voices you heard were from the United States. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again and read it on the internet at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called: “Sister Angelique: Bringing Refugees hope.”

Question:

What would you do to help refugees in your city? 

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