In DRC, bishops sound the alarm
"We say 'no to the obstruction of the complete and rapid application of the Accord.'"
By ACN staff
NEW YORK—The bishops of the Democratic
Republic have issued an urgent warning that rising violence and political
unrest are threatening the nation with “unraveling and chaos.” The bishops
expressed sorrow for “thousands” who have lost their lives in recent months,
including many minors enlisted by various militias. The bishops also expressed
concern that the crisis might trigger a famine and even the breaking up of the
The prelates, meeting in an emergency plenary session late
last month (Feb. 20-25, 2017), blame the worsening situation on the failure of
President Joseph Kabila and his political opponents to observe the terms of an historic
accord—signed Dec. 31, 2016 and brokered by the bishops’ conference—that paved
the way for presidential elections later this year, with President Kabila not pursuing
an unconstitutional third term in office.
In a statement obtained by international Catholic charity
Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), the bishops insisted that the Church’s role is
strictly that of mediator on behalf of the common good—even as a growing number
of violent and deadly attacks on Church property and personnel reflect apparent
resentment at the Church’s role in brokering the Accord.
In the city of Bukavu, several Daughters of the Resurrection
were murdered, prompting the order to close seven convents. Last December, a
Franciscan Sister was stabbed to death, also in Bukavu. A mob of youths burned
down the Church of St. Dominic in Limete, outside Kinshasa on Feb. 12, 2017.
In a message sent to ACN, Cardinal Monsengwo Pasinya, the
archbishop of Kinshasa, the country’s capital, reported on a Feb. 18, 2017
“arson attack” on the Malole major seminary. The prelate charged the
perpetrators were “violent thugs, who have [also] sown terror among the
Carmelite Sisters” in nearby Kanaga.
Nonetheless, the bishops said they remain committed to their
“prophetic role” in “accompanying the Congolese people” in seeing to it that
the terms of the Accord are observed.
The bishops proclaimed: “Faced with the trials of the
present time and for the sake of more justice and peace, we say ‘no to the obstruction
of the complete and rapid application of the Accord.’” They called on the
President, the opposition and all of civil society to begin a “frank dialogue,
based on good faith and mutual confidence” and thus to respond to the “cry of
distress of the Congolese people who impatiently await the implementation of the
They called on police and military to keep the peace
nation-wide, but without resorting to “excessive force;” the country’s media
were urged “to avoid polemics” and to inform the public “objectively and
accurately” for the sake of “national unity.”
The bishops called on the faithful to “intensify their
prayer for the country, help protect Church property, and to not give in to
provocations, discouragement and fear.” On March 26, 2017, the fourth Sunday of
Lent, all of the bishops will say a special Mass to ask for the “maternal
intercession of the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Hope, that the Lord” will bestow “peace
and mercy on the Democratic Republic of Congo and its people.”
Daughters of the Resurrection; ACN photo