Every Child Deserves to Live in Peace

May 23, 2014

This post originally appeared on the Global Education First Initiative site on 21 May 2014.

© 2013/Joseph Munyambanza

Joseph Munyambanza (left), Youth Advocacy Group member and co-founder of COBURWAS, organized an event in Goma, DRC last year on 12 June 2013, coinciding with Malala Day. The event brought together over 300 Congolese youth to discuss the challenges that prevent children and youth from going to school and learning. © 2013/Joseph Munyambanza

21 May 2014 – I was planning to take three days off after my college exams before resuming work for my organization, COBURWAS International Youth Organization to Transform Africa (CIYOTA). I wanted to sleep in after many nights of studying, but today, on the first day after my exam, I can’t sleep beyond 6am.

I had a dream about my uncle fleeing my country, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), when I met him in the refugee camp. He said that things are not good at home. He had left his family and he looked so tired and restless due to the situation.

Then I remembered that more than 250 Nigerian girls are still missing. These are my sisters who also deserved to sleep in on a Friday after working hard in school. Even though I don’t know those girls in person, I know Adesole, my Nigerian friend whom I call my young sister, and this injustice could happen to her.

I remembered that the even after the death of more than 6 million people, many Congolese are still living in refugee camps and more than 7 million Congolese children are not in school. I easily could have been any of these children who are denied a better future.

I remembered that in South Sudan, due to ongoing fighting and civil unrest, young people continue to be victims, recruited as child soldiers and denied the right to education. This has created feelings of hopelessness that are permeating the country. I know that I am not alone in saying this, but I share these frustrations with Paul Kut and Paul Lorem, my South Sudanese brothers who have been trodden by senseless leaders.

Before I got out of bed that morning, I said a prayer to thank God for the gift of life. For my education. For families and friends around the world. For the fact that I am African and for the hope I have for the future.

I prayed for the Nigerian sisters to be brought back safe and alive. I prayed for peace in my country. I prayed for colleagues like Benson Wereje, fellow founder and current Executive Director of CIYOTA, who is working in violent environments to create nonviolent means to achieve a peaceful DRC. I prayed for my friend Kambale Musavuri, who is in New York City to raise his voice on behalf of fellow Congolese so that the world can pay attention to the injustices happening in the Congo. I prayed for justice to prevail in South Sudan, a young nation whose children want it to stand out as a prosperous and successful nation in the 21st century. I prayed for the children in Syria and other war-torn countries because everyone deserves to live in peace.

Still seated on my bed in Fulton, Missouri, I write this blog to join youth and global citizens both in Africa and around the globe who desire to shape the world around us. With passion, hope, dedication and humility, I join fellow young African leaders in different institutions like the African Leadership Academy to write a new chapter for Africa. I join the United Nations Global Education First Initiative’s Youth Advocacy Group to ensure that global decisions made truly represent youth needs. I stand with A World at School and parents around the world to say that no child should risk being attacked or abducted for simply seeking an education.

Even though I am many miles away, I will work with CIYOTA leaders and founders, many of whom are working under hard conditions in villages and refugee camps, to unlock the potential in every child through education and entrepreneurial leadership training in Africa.

I am getting out of my bed because today is another day with many reasons to be happy and to believe in the future. After serving as the African Union president for two semesters at my college, Westminster, I will hand over my responsibilities to Kelecki from Nigeria, who will continue to work with fellow Africans so they can gain skills and experiences to bring back to the places we call home.

Because I am a global citizen, I want to do something to make this world better off than it is now. And because I am a global citizen, injustice in any country means injustice in our world as a whole. Let us join together to take action for a more just, peaceful and better world.

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Joseph Munyambanza is a former refugee from the DRC who co-founded COBURWAS to unite and educate the refugee youth from Congo, Burundi, Uganda, Rwanda, and Sudan. His parents are currently still li...

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