YAN Members Attend US Premier of Film on Dr. Mukwege of Panzi Hospital

The subject of the film is the founder

From left: Mrs. Tracy Redinger, Katrina Hagenbuch, Alex Stehley, Brandon Escala, LeeAnn De Rus, Joseph Mbangu, Jamie Lynch, CArly Crofcheck, Steven Hanzir and Mr. Cummins McNitt.

A group of seven Tyrone students from the Youth Action Network (YAN) Club along with adviser Cummins McNitt and Tracey Redinger traveled to the Locality Art Gallery in Bedford on Saturday, February 27th to see the new film about the plight of women in Congo and Dr. Denis Mukwege, entitled The Wrath of Hippocrates – The Man Who Mends Women.

The documentary highlights the courageous work performed by this son of a Pentecostal minister who heals women from the inside out. Two of the founders of Panzi Foundation USA, Dr. Lee Ann De Reus and Tyrone artist Peter Frantz were in attendance.

The film shows Dr. Mukwege’s life as he lives cloistered in his hospital in Bukavu under the protection of the United Nation peacekeepers. But he is no longer alone in his struggle. The women to whom he has restored physical integrity and dignity, stand beside him, true activists for peace, hungry for justice.

It really makes you think because you’re seeing first hand what’s going down, and it pushes emotions and thoughts to a new level”

— YAN member Jamie Lynch

“The film will help people better understand the crisis in Congo, the extraordinary work of Dr. Mukwege and staff at Panzi Hospital, and the need for organizations such as Panzi Foundation USA to help support these efforts,” said co-founder of the Panzi Hospital, Lee Ann De Reus, “The documentary is difficult in places but that’s the reality. If it makes us uncomfortable, maybe we will be moved to action. At the same time, the documentary balances those images with joy, compassion, the power of healing, and of course, hope. This is important, too, for portraying Congolese people as more than the stereotype of ‘suffering Africans.'”

“It was one of the most powerful and heavy-hitting documentaries I have seen in a while,” said McNitt, “If this doesn’t wake you up about the atrocities in the DRC nothing will, your soul must be as cold as a stone.”

Dr. Mukwege, the founder of the Panzi Hospital and Foundation, is a globally renowned gynecologist and fistula surgeon. He is a leader and humanitarian whose work is at the hospital and with civil society is critically important to the thousands of vulnerable women and girls they serve. Since 1999, the doctors, nurses, clinicians, and staff of Panzi have treated men, women, and children in the Ibanda Health Zone selflessly.

“People can only care so much when they don’t understand what is happening,” said YAN member Jamie Lynch, “When we hear about issues around the world we feel guilt and want to help, but we can only help so much if we don’t understand what is really going on. It really makes you think because you’re seeing first hand what’s going down, and it pushes emotions and thoughts to a new level.”

The film showed how the sexual violence against women has been used as a weapon of war for years in the violence-ridden and poverty-stricken Democratic Republic of Congo. Systematic sexual assault is a common tactic of militias to force local populations into surrendering natural resources from local mines.

“I thought it was a truly powerful film,” said YAN member Brandon Escala, “It portrayed not only the atrocities that take place towards the women in the Congo, but how those responsible are being brought to justice and how they managed to regain their confidence, their happiness, and their lives. In the end what we can learn from this film is that no matter hope hopeless your situation may seem, that you can rise from the ashes and come back stronger than before, and that you don’t have to do it alone.”

“These women have been mended and given new lives,” said Escala, “new ways to care of themselves and their families, and they have been given a restored sense of self confidence.”

The film explains how by destroying women and girls, the DRC is breaking down the foundation of families and villages.  In their culture, if a woman is sexually violated, she faces shame from her community and her husband. Once a family and village are torn apart, warring factions swoop in and take control over sought-after land and resources.

“About half of Mukwege’s patients are either unable to return to their villages or they’re abandoned by their husbands due to the stigma associated with rape,” said Crofcheck, “Others have lost their families to militia violence. The film goes in detail of the hospital’s suite of services includes psychological counseling, vocational training, math and literacy classes, and grants and loans for small businesses.”

“Their voices ring loud and clear to the world,” said McNitt, “Violence against women and children must stop. Women need to join together, men must stop these barbaric behaviors and society must take a stance against such violence. This is a film that should be seen by every adult today.”

French filmmakers, Thierry Michel and Colette Braeckmann, decided to document Mukwege’s story and the Panzi Hospital. The film was screened in Paris, The Hague, and Brussels and has received rave reviews; but was banned in the Congo by the Media Minister. There were five screenings in the United States: Washington D.C, New York, Los Angeles, and Bedford.

“It’s been such a pleasure to work with the amazing teachers and students at Tyrone High School,” said De Reus, “Thank you for attending our event. We loved having you there!”