Pope Francis exchanged greetings today, May 22, 2019, with the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Congolese Denis Mukwege, at the end of the weekly General Audience in St. Peter’s Square, announced the interim Director of the Holy See Press Office, Alessandro Gisotti.
Denis Mukwege, a gynecologist, who practices at the Panzi Hospital of Bukavu, in the south-west of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, has helped thousands of women violated in what he calls “a formal situation neither or war or peace, but of genuine impunity.”
In 2012 he had to seek refuge in Europe, a survivor of an attack after having denounced those responsible for violence in the region. However, he returned to the DRC the following year to pursue his commitment.
The Pope “knows very well the problems of my country,” explained Mukwege to “Vatican News” after their interview. The Doctor appreciates “the principles defended by the Vatican, such as respect for human dignity,” and hopes that these values, which today are being lost, are taught.
The Doctor pleaded for the equal dignity of men and women: “Our Congolese society will not be able to go ahead if a woman is not given the place she deserves,” a valid necessity for Africa and for the whole world, he added.
He told his story as an obstetrician: “For more than eight years, after having ‘lived’ in the operating room where I took care of mothers and their daughters . . . all that wasn’t acceptable for me. It’s why I left the operating theater to simply seek to sensitize the world on what is happening in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.”
The DRC “has been martyred for over 20 years,” he stressed. The “country has lost more than six million people, often due to massacres, hunger, or lack of care . . . . but six million people is an enormous number! And hundreds of thousands of women have suffered violence . . . this situation is very grave.”
He is the laureate of the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize, with Nadia Murad, survivor and witness of the genocide of the Yazidis by Daesh: both were rewarded for their efforts to put an end to the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war.
Denis Mukwege is also laureate of the Sakharov Prize, awarded at the European Parliament in 2014. “In a world of inversion of values, to refuse violence is to be a dissident,” he said in November 2014, at the moment of the prize-giving ceremony.