“The church will never shut up” declare Congo Christians
Civil protests by Christian and church leaders against the refusal of President Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo to relinquish power have gathered pace in recent months.
Thérèse Kapangala a 24-year-old nun who lived a short walk from the Church of St Francis de Sales, about 15 minutes from central Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo, was among the Christians, on Sunday 21 April who also came to church for the peaceful march.
Thérèse’s brother Jean-Claude told BBC that he remembered the gunshots and the tear gas. “I said to her: ‘Look there’s a lot of tear gas, please take this margarine butter’ because it is something we use to lessen the effects of the gas on our skin. But she already had some and threw away what I gave her. That day she was happy. She was joyful,” Jean-Claude said.
There were gunshots, screaming and the teargas. Thérèse was shot and lay in a pool of blood just inside the main door of the church. “Even now I can’t believe it,” recalls her mother Mado Longo. “I think I am dreaming that she has only gone to rest. She was my child but also my friend.”
The Catholic Church, together with civil rights groups, had called for civil protest in the country with a predominant Christian population, after president Kabila refused to leave office even after a deal brokered by the catholic church failed to get him to leave in December 2016.
Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo, head of the Catholic Church in DR Congo, declared that “time for truth to win out over systemic lying, for the mediocre to clear out and for peace and justice to reign in DR Congo” had come.
The government however responded with a high handed cracked down on protesters many were killed, many more beaten and arrested. For a third time the church called for peaceful protests and still people were attacked by the security forces.
“The church will never shut up. No force can make it shiver,” says Father Joseph Musubao, a relative of Thérèse Kapangala who was a witness to the violence. “The government’s behaviour, their way of doing things, their mode of governing is indescribable… it is bloody and without regrets.”
The Information Minister Lambert Mende, denounced the protests by the Catholic Bishops. Asked if the government was morally bankrupt that is why the Church is stepping in, he said, “I don’t know if it is because the government is bankrupt that the Bishops are taking a moral role. But they don’t have the role… If you want to play a political role please go for elections and tell people to give you a mandate.”
Hassan John is West Africa Editor, GCN and Priest of the Anglican Diocese of Jos