This report is contributed by Antonia van Alten of Aid to the Church in Need.
A bishop from the Democratic Republic of Congo has condemned last month’s murder of a priest in the strongest possible terms.
Bishop Théophile Kaboy, in a letter to the country’s papal nuncio—a copy of which was given to international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need—condemned the Feb. 25 murder of Father Jean-Paul Kakule in the east of the country as an “abominable, abhorrent and infernal act.” Father Kakule was treasurer of the parish of Mweso in the Goma Diocese. He was gunned down by an unidentified assassin as he was closing up the church for the evening.
Father Kakule (33) was the oldest child of a large Christian family from North Kivu. Ordained in 2003, he is the 10th priest to be murdered in the Democratic Republic of Congo since 1992, reported Bishop Kaboy. In addition, five sisters of the Congregation of Saint Vincent de Paul disappeared in 1996. There has been no trace of them to this day.
It is not yet clear whether the murder of Father Kakule is a criminal act or an expression of religious hatred. The bishop of Goma, noting that the mere presence of priests and religious in the area of Mweso is a source of irritation for criminals, suspects that the killing was an act of revenge. The Mweso parish has gained a reputation as an institution that has been unafraid to condemn local criminality.
Time and again, marauders have massacred defenseless villagers, and hundreds of thousands of people are displaced, said the bishop, adding that the population in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo feels extremely insecure. “Criminal gangs can go about their evil business unhindered because there is no police presence,” he said, appealing to authorities on both the national and international level to intervene and restore peace to the lawless region.
According to Aid to the Church’s 2014 “Religious Freedom in the World” report, there are 20 different armed groups terrorizing the eastern part of the country. The report details the 2012 abduction of three Assumptionist priests from their parish in Beni (North Kivu) at the end of 2012. The likely culprits are militants belonging to ADF-NALU, a Ugandan rebel group which is known for its radical Islamist leanings.
The Democratic Republic of Congo has a population of 65 million. Some 96% are Christians—47% Catholic; 49% Protestants.
Aid to the Church in Need is an international Catholic charity under the guidance of the Holy See, providing assistance to the suffering and persecuted Church in more than 140 countries. www.churchinneed.org (USA); www.acnuk.org (UK); www.aidtochurch.org (AUS); www.acnireland.org (IRL); www.acn-aed-ca.org (CAN)