AFRICA/DR CONGO - "We are having to respond to the spiritual and material wounds of the civil war," the Bishop of Kongolo says.

Rome (Agenzia Fides) – "We have emerged from a conflict that has left deep wounds – material ones, but above all, spiritual ones," Bishop Oscar Ngoy wa Mpanda of Kongolo (Democratic Republic of Congo) told Agenzia Fides. Bishop Mpanda is in Rome, participating in a study seminar held by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, for the 104 recently appointed Bishops of ecclesiastical circumscriptions that depend on the Missionary Dicastery (see Fides 10/9/2008). Kongolo is located in Katanga, southern Congo, where until recently there have been clashes with the Mai-Mai militias who have spread death and fear among the local civilians. The crimes have been denounced on various occasions by the local Bishops (see Fides 23/11/2005).
"Thanks be to God, the violence has ended and our diocese are experiencing a time of peace," Bishop Mpanda explained. "However, the conflict has left deep wounds on the people and the land. We are having to respond to the spiritual and material wounds from the violence. We still have a part of the population that has not yet returned to their homes, but as I mentioned earlier, the worst wounds are the spiritual ones. People have lost family members and many women have suffered sexual violence. In this sense, it is very difficult to calculate exactly how many people are suffering, as many are afraid to admit that they have been victims of violence. Some of these people have suffered traumas and do not have the strength to ask for help."
"The Church has not remained indifferent to the cry of the people. Churches, missionary centers, health care and educational facilities have all been destroyed. There are 50 Catholic schools where the rebels broke in and stole benches to use them for firewood," the Bishop of Kongolo added.
The consequences of the civil war are also evident in the Church, as well, he said. "In this negative context, several sects coming in from America and Europe have lured the faithful with their many resources. For example, the Jehovah Witnesses built nearly 2,500 prayer rooms in the diocese between 2004-2006. The sects distributed money and have established a series of radio and television channels that preach their own beliefs. Even many good Catholics listen to their programs. Thus, in order to counteract the activity of the sects, I have decided to start an integral pastoral action that reaches all aspects of daily life."
Faced with this challenge, the Bishop of Kongolo reaffirms the authentic vocation of the Church, which is to bear witness to the love of Christ, through an integral development of the human person. "The sects do not care about an integral development of the human person, a task which is really part of the Catholic Church's mission. The sects do not build schools or hospitals. We do not have a Catholic radio station, although we would like to have one, but we have a network of schools and health facilities that are a point of reference for the population. (LM) (Agenzia Fides 17/9/2008)

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