Following recent attempts at brokering peace between the government and political opposition leaders in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Catholic priests and religious are facing violent backlash around the country.
According to Aid to the Church in Need, a Catholic aid society that
works in the country, Catholics have experienced a slew attacks on
churches and convents.
In particular, a Carmelite Convent and a
Dominican Church were both ransacked in late February.
Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya, the Archbishop of Kinshasa, told
the organization that the incidents “lead one to believe that the
Catholic Church is being targeted deliberately, in order to sabotage her
mission of peace and reconciliation.”
“Along with all bishops, we denounce these acts of violence, which
are likely to plunge our country further into unspeakable chaos,” he
The attacks follow recent attempts by the Catholic Church in the DRC
to mediate between talks between the government of President Joseph
Kabila and the opposition. The opposition to President Kabila and claims
of a constitutional crisis follow after his refusal to step down from
office at the end of 2016.
Since then, the Congolese Bishops' Conference has helped to broker a
peace deal that would arrange for the peaceful transition of power.
However, after delays for the funeral of opposition leader Etienne
Tshisekedi and other conflicts, the peace agreement has all but
dissolved, according to some reports. Presidential elections are now
expected to take place at the end of 2017.
“Politicians ought to acknowledge with humility, before their nation
and the international community, their political tendencies and the
immorality of their self-serving decisions,” Cardinal Monswengwo said in
a statement about the elections.
The attacks have continued into March. According to Crux, 25 Catholic
Seminarians in Malole in the south of the country had to be evacuated
by UN peace-keeping forces by helicopter after armed troops attacked the
The attackers were part of a militia loyal to former tribal
leader Kamwina Nsapu, who died in August 2016.
For the Catholics, the violence has been terrifying.
“They systematically broke down the doors to different rooms and
destroyed everything inside. They entered the teachers' rooms and burned
their belongings,” Father Richard Kitenge, rector of the seminary, told
Recently, the Church has also lead anti-corruption initiatives in the
province and local area.
The animosity towards the Church also extends
outside of the church or convent walls.
“In the street, it's not unusual to hear threats against the Church,”
Father Julien Wato, the Dominican priest of Saint Dominic's Church, the
Kinshasa church vandalized in February said in a statement after the
Nearly half of the Congo's 67.5 million people are Catholic.
Previously, nearly 6 million people died in the 1996-2003 conflict over
the nation’s transfer of power.