“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
By Roseline Souebele
On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, when I was rereading his words, I realized how much I agree with them. I was only 5 years old in 1993, and excited to go to elementary school, when civil war broke out in my country, the Republic of the Congo. I was told that people from one ethnic group were killing those from another ethnic group, following the orders and incitement of their political leaders. The followers thought they were doing the right thing.
My father set up a barrier behind our house to prevent the opposing group from entering our neighborhood, which was mainly made up of people of one of the threatened ethnic groups. Every evening, I jumped into my mother’s arms feeling terror when non-stop gunshots echoed in our backyard. I unfortunately remembered that same feeling as I watched the January 6 events in Washington.
One morning, everything became so difficult that my father decided our family needed to flee. We narrowly escaped – the next day our house was set on fire. Because of the disruption, I had to begin my schooling years late. Then, when I was about to graduate primary school, one morning in 1997, we were again forced to flee from our house. We walked for miles to find shelter because, once more, the same clan was targeting our ethnicity. I lost another school year.
While in flight, I saw people die right in front of me from gunfire. No child should go through this. We suffered through many horrible things before finally returning home, over a year later. Every seven years after that time, during election season, we had to live with similar stress.
Because of hatred and prejudices, some marriages are almost impossible because of what one ethnic group has done to the other. Families worry and do not easily let their daughters or sons marry the other ethnic group because of the untreated trauma.
I was blessed not to be destroyed by violence, although I have lost people very dear to me. While I did not develop hatred in retaliation, I have tried all my life to understand why human beings would do such things to other human beings. I was able to dedicate my heart to uplift my community, through scouting and community service, but many other young people who grew up surrounded by hatred were consumed by hate – they did not know other forms of expression.
Living in the U.S. today – especially until January 6 – I felt there was more peace here than elsewhere. But I also feel like I’m in prison, far from my family, unable to go out of the country because of immigration policies. I am a victim of the consequences sown by people who targeted my people because they perceived us as different.
Can you imagine your children having to flee to a country other than the United States one day? If we don’t love more than we hate, that is not an impossible scenario. We are condemned to live together, so we should accept and take care of each other. Let’s cherish the precious gift that we have before we lose it, because when hate builds up, it’s more powerful than a bomb.
Roseline from Hope House