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Rescuing Regina

Tale about a Congolese refugee shows the best and worst of human behaviour

By Debbie Cowling

Rescuing Regina:
The Battle to Save a Friend from Deportation and Death
By Josephe Marie Flynn
(Lawrence Hill Books) $29.99

Reading Rescuing Regina was like having a front-row seat inside someone else’s nightmare. The book tells the story of a courageous woman who escaped Congo in the 1990s after being tortured and raped because of her fight for democracy. Regina Bakala settled into a somewhat normal life in the United States, where she was reunited with her husband, David (also a victim of violence in Congo), and had two children.

After about 10 years in the United States, however, the pyjama-clad Regina was abruptly arrested at home one evening by immigration officials as her family looked on. Whisked off to prison, she faced deportation and its risk of death. The author, a tireless nun named Sister Josephe Marie Flynn who was also a friend and advocate of the family, describes what happens in Regina’s struggle for freedom.

Rescuing Regina is not an easy book to read emotionally. The story shows both the worst and the best of human behaviour, from the abuse and cruelty of the soldiers in Regina’s homeland to the loving compassion of those who volunteered their money and time to help her. My eyes were opened to the overwhelming frustration that Regina faced as she dealt with many levels of bureaucracy and the mismanagement of her case. But despite the difficult topic, the author provides some much-needed comic relief and wit throughout the pages.

Some books simply tell a story, but Rescuing Regina can change lives. The author includes a powerful quote from her pastoral minister, Mary Matestic: “All prophetic insight begins in grief, but it does not stay there. It moves to righteous anger, which seeks to change systems. It moves toward setting many captives free.” Let this book be the catalyst that results in many captives being set free.

Debbie Cowling lives in Cavan, Ont., and attends Dunsford United. 

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