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Nobel Peace Prize Goes to Christian Doctor Who Heals Rape Victims

Congolese gynecologist Denis Mukwege is on a crusade for women’s dignity.
Nobel Peace Prize Goes to Christian Doctor Who Heals Rape Victims
Image: Victor Boyko / Getty Images

A Christian gynecologist who has dedicated his career to caring for victims of rape in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been awarded a 2018 Nobel Peace Prize.

Denis Mukwege, nicknamed “Dr. Miracle” for his specialized procedures, was a co-recipient for the annual honor alongside Nadia Murad, a Yazidi activist who survived rape and kidnapping by ISIS in Iraq. The Nobel committee said both winners modeled “efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war.”

Over the past 20 years, Mukwege has treated tens of thousands of women in Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, many of who had been gang raped by militants in the midst of the country’s conflict, left scarred and stigmatized.

His faith influences his approach to caring for patients holistically, “not only to treat women—their body, [but] also to fight for their own right, to bring them to be autonomous, and, of course, to support them psychologically. And all of this is a process of healing so women can regain their dignity,” he told NPR.

Mukwege is the son of a Pentecostal minister and was inspired to pursue medicine after traveling with his father to pray for the sick. Panzi Hospital, which he founded in 1999, is managed by the Pentecostal Churches in Central Africa (CEPAC).

If Christians do not live out the practical implications of their faith among their communities and neighbors, “we cannot fulfill the mission entrusted to us by Christ,” he said at a keynote for the Lutheran World Federation last year.

Further, the 63-year-old doctor advocates out of a Christian understanding of men and women as equal in dignity before God. He wears a button on his lab coat that says, “Stop Raping Our Greatest Resources, Power to the Women and Girls of the Democratic Republic of Congo.”

“It is up to us, the heirs of Martin Luther, through God’s Word, to exorcise all the macho demons possessing the world so that women who are victims of male barbarity can experience the reign of God in their lives,” Mukwege told the Lutheran assembly.

Christian groups have joined alongside Mukwege’s crusade against sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) in the DRC, where violence has threatened the population for decades. (As CT reported, 3.9 million were killed and more than 40,000 raped in the decade since fighting began in 1996. It has gone on long past the official end of the civil war in 2003.)

“Dr. Mukwege’s incredible work with survivors of sexual and gender-based violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo inspires me, and many of us,” Rick Santos, president and CEO of the Christian nonprofit IMA World Health, said in a statement on Friday. “We are honored to call him and Panzi Hospital a partner in the effort to eradicate SGBV in a place where it is so pervasive.”

Violent rape has left thousands of Congolese women bearing long-tem physical consequences, including fistula, which leads to incontinence and infection, as well as injuries that complicate childbirth.

Once the only doctor in the province to treat these women, he has become “likely the world’s leading expert on repairing injuries of rape.” The Pentecostal hospital also offers the patients therapy, legal assistance, community resources, and help reintegrating into their community.

Mukwege challenged fellow Christians to consider “the credibility of the gospel in the 21st century, to liberate the grace that we have received by making the church a light that still shines in this world of darkness through our struggles for justice, truth, law, freedom, in short, the dignity of man and woman.”

Christianity Today covered the ongoing DRC violence in a 2006 cover story, Hope in the Heart of Darkness.

The magazine also previously featured 2011 Nobel Peace Prize recipient Leymah Gbowee, a Liberian activist and prayer warrior.

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