Pope Francis meets with the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Doctor Denis Mukwege, who Helps Female Victims of Violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Nobel peace prize laureate, Doctor Denis Mukwege, meets with Pope Francis. Dr. Mukwege is from the Democratic Republic of Congo, where he doctor works tirelessly to save the lives of women who have suffered sexual violence at the hands of rebels in the country.

Congolese gynaecologist and human rights activist Denis Mukwege, the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, was received by Pope Francis in the Vatican on December 9th.

Dr Mukwege has just returned from a trip to the Italian city of Naples where he received an award and donations for his Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, in which he treats women who are victims of sexual violence in war.

Speaking to Vatican News' Alessandro di Bussolo, Dr Mukwege denounced the atrocities taking place in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and in particular the support that the group of rebels M23 receive from neighbouring Rwanda.

He explained that women are raped daily by the guerrillas, who use this sexual violence as a weapon of terror to sever community ties, but also as an instrument of extermination, as it also aims to make the victims sterile.

Dr Mukwege, the world's leading expert in the internal reconstruction of the female genital apparatus after rape, and his team, have operated on almost 80,000 women in recent years, working up to 18 hours a day and performing up to 10 operations a day. The courage of this extraordinary surgeon allows victims to start a new life.

Next to the Panzi Hospital, a secure facility has been built over the years where the patients - and their children - find refuge. The women learn sewing, weaving and other jobs, in order to become self-sufficient and start living again.

After having received numerous threats, and after having risked his own life to save his daughters who, too, had been kidnapped, Dr Mukwege's Panzi Foundation's facilities are today protected by the blue helmets of Monusco, the UN mission in the DRC.

Dr Mukwege noted that the Holy Father will be making a trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo at the end of January, after having had to postpone it for medical reasons.

"We Congolese await this visit with great impatience, because we think that his arrival in Congo will enable us to turn the page”, said Dr Mukwege.

At the same time, he added that the visit of the Holy Father will also help to shed light on what is happening in the country, and we therefore hope that “the international press will talk about it and that the international authorities will finally take the necessary measures to stop these atrocities, which are a disgrace to our humanity.” The world cannot continue to remain silent, he added.

He noted that there is no real problem of reconciliation among the Congolese, whom he believes can come together, from all different tribes, as it is a problem that began after the genocide in Rwanda, in 1996, and that has continued since that tragedy.

“The suffering has gone on for far too long. The humanitarian crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo is unprecedented: six million people are now displaced, homeless and without food.”

At the hospital he explained; "We take care free of charge of all women who have obstetrical consequences that cause fistulas, i.e. communication between the bladder and the vagina, or the rectum and the vagina, and who leak faeces or urine in an uncontrolled manner."

Peace in DRC would be a rare good, not seen for 25 years, he noted. "This is what we need to be able to rebuild our country, to give our children a future, to educate our children in acceptable conditions. Today we have malnutrition simply because people cannot farm, cannot work normally. And so our dream is peace."