Congo’s Bishop Calls for End to Attacks on Catholic Church, Leaders

Catholic bishops in Congo have called for an end to attacks on the church and its leaders.

According to them, the acts are linked to the church’s persistent call for democracy and national cohesion. They said the Archdiocese of Kinshasa has been targeted as well as places of worship like parishes, Marian grottoes, altars, and sanctuaries in the Diocese of Mbujimayi.

Highlighting the act in a letter to the bishops’ conference July 26, Bishop Bernard-Emmanuel Kasanda Mulenga of Mbujimay said the place had been desecrated.

Reacting to the development, the Congolese bishops’ conference, known by the French acronym CENCO, in strong terms condemned the inadmissible acts of violence which are a serious attack on freedom of religion and expression, but also a violation of democracy.

In a statement, Father Donatien Nshole, conference general secretary saud:  “It is a big step backward on the road to the rule of law to which the Congolese people aspire.”

Apart from the incidents in Mbujimayi, the bishops said there are two other incidents in which the church and its leaders have come under direct attack.

Those highlighted include an incident, which occurred on July 31.

Meanwhile, Augustin Kabuya, general secretary of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress, accused Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo and Nshole of politicizing the church, among other allegations.

On Aug. 1, a group of young people vandalized the headquarters of the Archdiocese of Kinshasa and the residence of the cardinal. They also yelled insults at the cardinal.

“Our pain is great as all these acts show hatred against the Catholic Church,” said Nshole.

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Although the motive of attacks remains unknown, some observers believe it is linked to religious groups’ search for the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission.

The country’s constitution allows the appointment of chairman of the electoral commission to be the duty of the faith leaders in the Central African country, where the majority of the Christians are Catholic.

A technical team, chosen by a Congolese forum of religious denominations, began vetting short-listed candidates July 27.

“Why blame CENCO when it preaches national cohesion? Why attack her when she defends the independence of the Independent Electoral Commission? It is only accomplishing its prophetic mission in the search of the well-being of the Congolese people,” said Nshole, who also serves as spokesman for the religious forum.

In June, an improvised bomb exploded in a Catholic church in Beni, killing one person and badly injuring two others. The explosion occurred as the church prepared to hold confirmation for children.

In spite of the attacks, the bishops have asked their followers to remain calm. He also reminded the people that violence kills democracy and replaces it with dictatorship.

The clerics also want the sponsors of the violence to stop and the government to identify, arrest and punish those involved.

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