DRC: Upsurge in violent attacks against Church in Congo

Following a series of attacks against the Church in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a senior Catholic leader has spoken about “a resurgence of fear, anger and indeed insecurity” in the country.

Speaking to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya, the Archbishop of Kinshasa described the second consecutive weekend attack as an “alarming security situation”.

He said: “On Saturday, 18 February 2017 we learned with indignation of the arson attack on a section of the major seminary in Malole by violent thugs, who have [also] sown terror among the Carmelite Sisters”.

The Carmelites are located in Kananga, in the DRC’s central province of Lulua.

There was also an attack on Saint Dominic’s Church in Limete, Kinshasa, west DRC on Sunday 12 February, that was carried out by about 20 youths.

The cardinal said: “They overturned the tabernacle, ransacked the altar, smashed some of the benches and attempted to set fire to the church. The material damage is considerable”.

He added that these incidents “lead one to believe that the Catholic Church is being targeted deliberately, in order to sabotage her mission of peace and reconciliation.”

ACN’s Religious Freedom in the World 2016 report noted that state authorities and the DRC’s Catholic Bishops’ Conference (CENCO) had been “on a collision course since 2014” over proposals to extend the presidency beyond the two terms permitted in the constitution.

The report added that the DRC opposition suspected that these proposals would be used as “delay tactics to put off upcoming elections… with the potential to delay an election for years”.

According to the Religious Freedom in the World 2016 report, in response to CENCO criticism “on 16 January 2015 the government closed the signal of Radio Television Catholique Elilya (RTCE), which remained shut down for six months”.

But in December 2016 there was a political agreement in the DRC that President Joseph Kabila would step down.

The Church has acted as a mediator trying to achieve a peaceful transition in the forthcoming presidential elections, due to be held in late 2017.

Cardinal Pasinya called on politicians to “demonstrate wisdom, self-restraint and a democratic spirit in order to resolve the question regarding the designation of the Prime Minister and the other related issues, [and not risk] imperiling the planned elections scheduled for the end of this year.”

He said: “It is now down to the men of politics to acknowledge with humility, both before the nation and before the international community, their political weakness and the turpitude of their selfish choices that have led to a political impasse and the paralysis of the institutions.”

ACN continues to provide emergency aid for religious Sisters, including the Daughters of Resurrection, who were forced to close seven of their convents in the Bukavu region, east DRC after some Sisters were killed in the violence spreading across this region.

Also in the Bukavu region the charity has supported a number of reconstruction projects because of the earthquakes in 2005 and 2008.

As well as helping with, in the rebuilding of churches and presbyteries it is supporting the formation of the clergy, including the yearly spiritual retreats for the priests because of the high psychological pressures exerted on them within the DRC.