By Lisa Zengarini
The Bishops of the Democratic Republic of Congo have expressed indignation at attacks on the Church and church institutions in the past few months.
On Sunday, the residence of Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo, the Archbishop of Kinshasa, was targeted by a group of unidentified young people who vandalized it with insulting slogans against the cardinal, who a day earlier had been the subject of offensive accusations by the secretary general of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress party, Augustin Kabuya. The political leader of the ruling party had, among other things, accused Cardinal Ambongo, together with the secretary general of the Bishops Conference, Father Donatien Nshole, of wanting to "politicize" the Church. The attacks are related to differences over the reorganization of the Independent National Electoral Commission (Ceni) in view of presidential elections in 2023, which the Church would like to be independent of politics and an expression of civil society.
In a statement reported by Radio Okapi, the Congolese Episcopal Conference – CENCO – speaks of “irresponsible behaviour” calling on the faithful to remain “extremely vigilant” and not to be “influenced by anyone.”
CENCO also says it is “saddened” by the repeated acts of vandalism, desecration and theft of sacred objects that have occurred in the last four months against several churches and places of worship (12 in all) in the Diocese of Mbuji-Mayi, in East Kasaï. The attacks were denounced by the local Bishop, Bernard-Emmanuel Kasanda, who in a pastoral letter released on July 26 speaks of “reprehensible acts” and “heinous crimes” that deserve timely and “exemplary” punishment.
According to the Bishops’ Conference, these “inadmissible” acts of violence constitute “a serious attack on freedom of religion and expression, but also a violation of democracy. It is a big step backwards in the path towards the rule of law to which the Congolese people aspire.” Hence the request addressed to the Government to “take the situation in hand,” identifying and severely punishing those responsible “so that such attacks will never be repeated.”