Democratic Republic of Congo—After a Wave of attacks, Bishop denounces Persecution of the Church

In commemorating the twenty-fifth anniversary of the murder of Archbishop Christophe Munzihirwa Mwene Ngabo of the diocese of Bukavu, the local Church has denounced the persecution the diocese has been suffering recently at the hands of armed groups.

In a message sent to the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN International), the present Archbishop of Bukavu, Msgr. François-Xavier Maroy Rusengo affirmed the attacks against the local Church have increased as of late, rendering his work impossible. “There have been around ten separate attacks by armed men on our parishes, presbyteries and convents just in this year,” the archbishop explained.

Msgr. Francois-Xavier Maroy Rusengo during the procession through the streets of Bukavu on 29th October marking the anniversary of the assassination of Archbishop Christophe Munzihirwa of Bukavu in 1996.

According to Archbishop Rusengo, seven parishes, a school, a health centre and a convent were attacked between March and October 2021, in the towns of Karhale, Ciherano, Burhiba, Cahi, Nyamugo, Kadutu, Kanyamulande, Mugogo and Cirirri, the last of these were attacked this month, on October 6.

“The consequences of all these attacks are enormous, not to speak of the trauma and the physical and psychological scars they have left—fortunately without any actual loss of life,” the archbishop continued.

Msgr. Francois-Xavier Maroy Rusengo (Archbishop of Bukavu) –
Procession in memory of the 3 killed archbishops of Bukavu – 2012

Radical Islam Adds to the Situation

For years now, the provinces of the eastern part of the DR Congo have been terrorized by rebel militias. Ethnic conflicts, population movements and the desire for access to valuable mineral resources have played an important role in all this. And in recent years there has also been a growing element of radical Islam.

On 24/03/2021 at 8.45 a.m., there was an attack by the alleged rebels ADF/NALU on the Beni-Kasindi road, almost 20 km from Beni. They set fire to 2 vehicles, a car which had on board 5 people and another which had on board 2 people and food. All the people are dead. Fire of two vehicles.

But despite the complexity of the conflict and the multiple causes behind it, Archbishop Maroy Rusengo deplored the fact that “almost all these attacks are occurring close to the places where law enforcement are stationed.” He also noted that while the terrible situation they are suffering at present is due to the lack of resources, unemployment and poverty the people are forced to live in, it is also “appropriate to consider the living conditions of the soldiers and police, not to mention the porous nature of our frontiers with our neighbouring countries and the absence of any genuine government authority throughout our territory.”

Democratic Republic of Congo , archdiocese of Bukavu 02.06.2013 Worldwide Hour of Eucharistic Adoration celebrated at St. Francis parish in Kadutu, on 2th of June 2013:

An ‘Attempt to Muzzle the Church’?

Faced with this complete absence of the State in the Bukavu region, the Catholic Church is one of the few bodies speaking out against the injustice and violence, and for this reason the archbishop questioned why it is that the attacks appear to be “targeting particularly the structures of the Church.”

“Is it an attempt to muzzle the Church, given that she is one of the few agencies still raising her voice to plead the cause of this suffering population? Nor should we forget that in speaking of the Church we are speaking of God, who is not welcomed by the secular political and economic authorities… Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Archbishop Maroy Rusengo questioned.

Msgr. Francois-Xavier Maroy Rusengo (Archbishop of Bukavu) in a holy mass on 29th October marking the anniversary of the assassination of Archbishop Christophe Munzihirwa of Bukavu in 1996.

In the face of the violence being inflicted on his diocese, the archbishop called on the Catholic faithful to organize themselves to protect the churches and Catholic institutions, and to protect them from future attacks. And finally, he asked us all to “persevere in prayer ’in order to console the suffering, pray for the conversion of those who are causing this suffering and persuade the authorities to “shoulder their responsibilities on behalf of everyone.”

The Catholic Church helps the population of DRC – and represents the only organized opposition to the impact on the people as a result of the exploitations of the land resources. The Church often faces persecution for this reason.

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