Congo Bishops: Despite Our Cries, Things Are Worse

Decry Massacre of Civilian Population

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KINSHASA, Congo, NOV. 18, 2008 ( A whole nation is mourning its children and cannot be consoled, because they exist no longer, Congolese bishops lamented in a statement regarding the ongoing conflict in their country.

The Thursday statement was released from the Permanent Commission of the National Episcopal Conference of the Congo, which met in the capital last week.

«Despite our anguished cries for help addressed to our political leaders as well as to the international community, the situation in this part of our country has only worsened and is taking on unbearable dimensions, highly disquieting and capable of destabilizing the whole region if something is not done urgently,» the prelates wrote. «If, as Scripture tells us today, a cry has been heard in the Democratic Republic of Congo, much weeping and lament: It is Goma, Kiwanja, Dungu … it is the whole nation that mourns its sons and will not be consoled, because they exist no longer.»


The crisis follows the eruption of violence between three groups: Tutsi militia of General Laurent Nkunda, Rwandan Hutu militias who fled after the 1994 genocide, and the Congolese army.

Nkunda said that he initiated the rebel army to protect Tutsis from attacks by Hutus responsible for the Rwandan genocide. He declared his intention of overthrowing the Congolese government (which he says is supporting the Hutu militias) if it does not consent to a direct audience to address the issue of these attacks.

His critics say that in reality Nkunda’s aim is to take control of the region, along with its valuable mineral resources.

Sunday, Nkunda met with U.N. envoy and former Nigerian president, Olusegun Obasanjo, to discuss an end to the conflict. The general agreed to a ceasefire, to participate in peace talks in Nairobi, and to allow aid workers access to the refugees.

However, Monday as Congolese soldiers withdrew, Tutsi rebels followed in their wake, engaging in skirmishes and taking control of the region as it was vacated.

But rebels announced today they would withdraw from two fronts and give peace another chance; meanwhile chaos continued with army soldiers looting and exchanging fire with a militia group formerly loyal to them.

Just wanting peace

The bishops decried the «large-scale massacres of the civil population, the selective extermination of young people, the systematic rapes carried out as a weapon of war,» and said these crimes have «again been unleashed with unthinkable cruelty and virulence against the local population that has never asked for more than a tranquil and dignified life in their lands.»

The statement continued, «What is most deplorable is that these terrible events occur under the impassive gaze of those who have received the mandate to maintain peace and protect the civil population. Our political leaders themselves seem impotent in face of the scope of the situation, and give the impression of not being up to the challenges of peace, of the defense of the Congolese population and of the integrity of the national territory.»

The United Nations also has its largest peacekeeping force deployed there.

The bishops said that Congo’s natural riches fuel the conflict and that hidden agendas and greed abound.

«The greatness of the Democratic Republic of Congo and its numerous riches must not serve as a pretext to turn it into a jungle,» they stated. «We appeal to the Congolese people never to give in to the whims of those who wish to Balkanize their national territory.»

The prelates went on to denounce both the crimes committed against the innocent and the «negligence with which the international community addresses the problems of aggression of which our country is victim.»

«We appeal to the international community to be sincerely committed to respect for international law. We consider it an imperative need to send a force of pacification and stabilization to re-establish rights in our country,» they added. «The whole world will gain more with a Congo in peace than a Congo at war.»


Finally, the Congolese bishops renewed the Church’s commitment to the suffering.

«Sharing in the sufferings of her people, the Church-family of God that is in the Democratic Republic of Congo, commits herself to accompany her sons and daughters on the path of reconciliation and peace,» they wrote. «She expresses her acknowledgement to His Holiness Benedict XVI for his concern over the tragedy […], for his repeated appeals to all in order to find a peaceful solution and to obtain the financial aid that he himself has just given to relieve the displaced people.

«May the Lord, who prayed for hours in the Garden of Gethsemane and who felt as his own the sufferings inflicted and imposed on the members of his body, watch with us and sustain us in face of the tragedy our country is suffering.»

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