The Coventry International Prize for Peace and Reconciliation recipient Thérèse Mema Mapenzi shares her ‘Coventry’ experience of forgiveness at home in the Congo.
Since receiving the prestigious award in November the recipient of Coventry’s Peace Prize has been sharing her ‘Coventry’ experiences with those back home in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Since returning home to Bukavu, in Eastern DRC, Thérèse has been the guest of honour at several community celebration events attended by parish priests, local civic leaders, members of local women associations and journalists. Thérèse wants to use the award money to help women who have lost limbs to violence suffered during the conflict, by providing access to medical services, artificial limbs and rehabilitation. Inspired by her visits to Coventry, Thérèse is eager to create a ‘New Coventry’ – a place for forgiveness and reconciliation in the Congo.
Thérèse has an inspiring vision for the future born out of her visit to Coventry - the city of peace of reconciliation - and the story of the Cathedral ruins (a place of hope and forgiveness), “I want to build a ‘New Coventry’; a centre of reconciliation here in the district of Kaniola, DRC. Kaniola is a district which has experienced so much painful violence during the conflict. I want to help the community build a memorial in the heart of Kaniola. It’s to be a place of reconciliation and not as a constant reminder of our misery and trauma.
I want to call it ‘New Coventry’ as it will be a place for people to learn about reconciliation, dignity and to value human rights. It’s a memorial that will be built by the community and for the community. As the community builds this memorial together so we can learn from each other and say to the rest of the country that we don’t want the violence to be repeated again here.”
“Thérèse has certainly left the people of Coventry a legacy of inspiration and hope for what one person’s idea can achieve in a violent context. Her challenge to us all is, “What can we do to help bring peace, reconciliation and change to the conflicts we see around us?” I am eager that we explore the possibility of introducing the Listening Rooms here in Coventry, inspired by her work in the DRC,” explained the Very Reverend John Witcombe, Dean of Coventry, “The outcome of her visits to Coventry will be a lasting partnership where ideas are shared and a lasting friendship between two communities is built.”
Thérèse Mema Mapenzi is the Sexual Violence Programme Leader for the Justice and Peace Commission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo funded by CAFOD. Thérèse Mema Mapenzi, who works with rape victims in South Kivu of the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), adds that in order for victims of rape and other forms of sexual violence to move on, they must have someone to listen to them.