We must raise our voices in unison and ask that the world community insist on peace, particularly for those in the midst of perpetual conflict. Our brothers and sisters in the DRC and Great Lakes region have the right to expect our solidarity as we show support for all peace building efforts.
A land so beautiful, so plentiful, yet so riddled with turmoil -- I wonder when the hush of temporary silence will be followed by the whisper of intermittent hope that will one day lead to the shouts of joy resulting from a permanent, lasting peace. Clearly, thoughts of a lasting peace process swirled in the minds of DR Congolese government officials in 2003 when the transitional government was formed and a peace deal was brokered.
But "the people," "my people," were still under siege, terrorized by militias and the army. So devastating was this period, which started in 1998 and appropriately named "The Great War of Africa," that accurate counts of lives lost vary between three million and five million -- this death toll a result of fighting, disease and malnutrition. Is it possible that more than three million of my brothers and sisters have lost their lives in a country infused with vast economic resources and cradled in a global village that sees and hears all?
Coined the "deadliest war in modern African history" and involving no less than nine African nations, it is the aftermath that I see as so debilitating, so demoralizing. This humanitarian crisis is of epic proportion affecting those most vulnerable -- its women and children. The continued conflict has forced millions of people from their homes with more than half of them being children. This disruption has adversely affected their daily lives, limiting access to food, water, health care and education. Targeted sexual violence and mass rape continue to terrify women and girls while children and youths are routinely forced into armed groups. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, approximately 1.69 to 1.8 million women reported having been raped in their lifetime and approximately 3 to 3.3 million reported experiencing intimate partner sexual violence.
It has been two years since I last visited the Congo, and I look forward to being with the people of the DRC on September 21, 2014 as a performer in the Peace One Day concert in Goma, DRC. This is one visible way in which I can demonstrate my support to unify the DRC on Peace Day (September 21). Really, I see this as an opportunity to raise global awareness of the humanitarian issues plaguing the region.
I am pleased to join Jeremy Gilley, founder of Peace One Day, to bring the message of Peace Day to 1.5 billion people in 2014. It is his pioneering work that led to the establishment of a day of ceasefire and non-violence on September 21. This year, the goal of the Peace One Day project in the DRC and Great Lakes region is to encourage all parties to stand together in the name of peace and to significantly reduce violence across the country on September 21.
What I have learned about the peace process is that once people are aware of a day designated for peace, they then behave more peacefully in their own lives as a result. A report by McKinsey & Company showed that approximately 2 percent of those aware of Peace Day in 2012 (5.6 million) behaved more peacefully, which, in turn, had a positive impact on the lives of thousands of others. So peace begets more peace. And it was this understanding that led the Howard G. Buffet Foundation to give Peace One Day a $10 million donation to lead a three-year peace campaign in the DRC and Great Lakes region. In total, the Howard G. Buffet Foundation has invested a $175 million in eastern DRC and Great Lakes region in the belief that people need better economic opportunities to achieve lasting peace. I applaud all actions that look to address loss of life in trouble regions around the world.
I am often asked when addressing these types of issues, "What can I do?" and my initial response is, "Become aware." So I invite each reader to take the logical next step and learn more about the peace building efforts of Peace One Day and their partners in the region at http://www.peaceoneday.org/peace-one-day-drc.
And then I ask that as a demonstration of solidarity with our brothers and sisters in the DRC and Great Lakes region that we partake in peaceful activity on Peace Day (September 21st).