OXFORD, England (CNS) — A year after Congo’s new president pledged to restore democracy and stability, the country’s Catholic leaders said the country faces being broken up by prolonged violence.
Msgr. Andre Massinganda, deputy secretary-general of the Congolese bishops’ conference, told Catholic News Service that the church was concerned with “how to bring peace to those areas where war continues, and how to end the killings and massacres so people can live safely again.”
Earlier, Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo Besungu of Kinshasa, conference vice president, visited conflict-torn North Kivu province and warned that the country planned to “Balkanize” the country, as had happened when the Balkans were divided along ethnic lines.
Msgr. Massinganda told CNS Jan. 8 the Catholic Church would continue urging those in power “to apply themselves to the search for peace.”
“We’ve been in a state of war for 20 years now; while there have been moments of relative calm, the country has never been under control,” he said. “The Congolese government has its army, and a multilateral force is deployed nationwide. But we’re still beset with deep-seated problems.”
A statement on the Congolese bishops’ website said Cardinal Ambongo had visited eastern Congo Dec. 27-31 at the request of Bishop Melchisedech Sikuli Paluku of Butembo-Beni to “comfort populations bruised by atrocities.”
The statement said the cardinal had taken a message of support from Pope Francis to local people and had been shocked by the continued massacre of civilians and “absence of state authority.”
Speaking at a Jan. 3 Kinshasa news conference, Cardinal Ambongo said Congolese citizens had hoped killings would cease when Felix Tshisekedi replaced the long-entrenched Joseph Kabila as president in December 2018 elections.
However, he added that the “democratic changeover of power” could not be celebrated while people were still dying in eastern Congo.
“I witnessed close-up the unacceptable misery of a traumatized and morally enfeebled population, of empty villages and abandoned fields,” said the cardinal, whose remarks were carried on the bishops’ website. “These are calculated, planned acts, whose regularity clearly reveals the objective is the Balkanization of our country.”
The Kivu-based Centre of Study for the Promotion of Peace, Democracy and Human Rights (CEPADHO) said in early January that more than 240 civilians had died in the region since Oct. 30, with at least 20 more killed in Beni during Cardinal Ambongo’s visit by an Islamist group, Allied Democratic Forces.
The Butembo-Beni Diocese’s Justice and Peace Commission said Dec. 19 the combination of increased massacres and “waves of immigration” suggested “a precise program for the occupation of native lands by groups not from the area.”
Cardinal Ambongo said people of Rwandan and Ugandan origin were being settled in homes abandoned by the indigenous population, while the Congolese army had been infiltrated by foreign fighters, causing “frustration and anger” among local inhabitants.
He added that action should be taken to protect Congo’s eastern frontiers, to prevent further mass arrivals.
In a time to build, CatholicPhilly.com connects people and communities
As society emerges from the loss and separation of the pandemic, CatholicPhilly.com works to strengthen the connections between people, families and communities every day by delivering the news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live.
By your donation in any amount, you join in our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community.
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103