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Congo protests end in six deaths as new elections are demanded

January 22nd, 2018 Posted in International News Tags:

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KINSHASA, Congo — Security forces in Congo violently dispersed protesters who were demanding that President Joseph Kabila hold fresh elections.

A spokesman for the U.N. Stabilization Mission said the organization had recorded six deaths, dozens of injuries and more than 240 arrests in Kinshasa when demonstrations were staged after Masses Jan. 21. The church’s lay coordinating committee organized the demonstrations.

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Catholic protesters killed and jailed in Congo

January 2nd, 2018 Posted in International News Tags:

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KINSHASA, Congo — Church leaders in Congo expressed shock after security forces fired on Catholic protesters, leaving at least eight dead and 120 people detained.

The Dec. 31 protest against rule by President Joseph Kabila was organized by the Kinshasa archdiocesan lay coordination committee. At least a dozen priests were among those detained.

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Priest finds hope amid violence that has killed millions in Congo

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Catholic News Service

This story contains a description of a horrible act of violence

QUEBEC CITY — For Father Gaston Ndaleghana Mumbere, the feast of the Assumption represents his hope for better tomorrows for Congo.

Father Gaston Ndaleghana Mumbere poses for a photo in Quebec City Aug. 10. In his recently published book, this 35-year-old Assumptionist priest describes the violence that plagues his home country. (CNS photo/Philippe Vaillancourt, Presence)

Father Gaston Ndaleghana Mumbere poses for a photo in Quebec City Aug. 10. In his recently published book, this 35-year-old Assumptionist priest describes the violence that plagues his home country. (CNS photo/Philippe Vaillancourt, Presence)

In his recently published book, this 35-year-old Assumptionist priest describes the violence that plagues his home country. But mostly, he writes to allow a people used to crying from under the rubble of chaos to speak once again.

Father Mumbere is from North Kivu, a Congolese province that, for 20 years, has been at the heart of a conflict that has killed up to 8 million people in the East African nation.

Sent to Quebec City by his religious order in 2009 to study theology, he eventually took up writing to tell of the Congolese drama. His French-language book, “La cloche ne sonnera plus a l’eglise de Butembo-Beni” (“The Bell Won’t Ring Anymore at Butembo-Beni’s Church”), is written like a series of letters addressed to his Aunt Assumpta, a fictitious name that serves two purposes: to protect her identity, and to have a constant reference to the feast of the Assumption.

“Mary has walked the path that awaits us: the path of the Resurrection,” said Father Mumbere. “The path toward the Father. She’s like a model that encourages us, that tells us it’s possible to make it. Stay strong. Mary is not the path. Jesus is.”

In this sense, he said, the Assumption is not just a devotion, “It’s something real, alive.”

Father Mumbere bases his Marian reflection on the Bible, and he used it as a basis for preaching in August at the Sanctuary of the Sacred Heart, also known as the Canadian Montmartre. He said the New Testament tells of how Mary feels the pain of others.

“It’s at this moment that this woman is a model, an inspiration. Mary becomes important, not because I must venerate her, but because she shows me how I must care for the others, for what is lacking in their lives.”

He said he wanted his book to rely on this path of the Assumption to tell about the harsh Congolese reality.

“For me, the first thing, the urgency, is to liberate the word,” he said in French, giving his sentence a double meaning, since it could translate as “to speak freely” or as “to free the Word of God.”

“It’s not enough to say: ‘Bah, 8 million people died in Congo and that’s it.’ I vouch for the word. The muffled word.”

The priest compared the Congolese people to victims stuck under rubble. They cannot talk; they can only cry out, hoping someone will hear them.

Father Mumbere reminded people that in a context of terror, such as in North Kivu, it is difficult to speak freely.

Without delving in all the atrocities, Father Mumbere’s book tells of the dehumanizing violence, such as an incident with his grandmother’s neighbors, when armed men raped the mother and her daughters, before forcing the husband and sons to rape them as well to have their lives spared.

“I wish free speech for them,” said the priest. “We must speak ‘for’ these raped women, and not ‘of’ them. I wish the readers to enter the dynamic of also speaking for these women. For me, it’s biblical. To speak for the others is like a place of salvation.”

Among the victims he wants to speak for, Father Mumbere remembers his Assumptionist friends, kidnapped Oct. 19, 2012. Fathers Jean-Pierre Ndulani, Anselme Wasukundi, and Edmond Bamutupe were all ministering at the Mbau parish, in the Butembo-Beni Diocese, when they were taken. Although many people think the priests have been killed, their fate remains unknown.

“It was a motivation to speak out. I cannot just stay in my sacristy. My prayer, I want it to be active. To pay tribute to these priests is to speak of the chaotic situation in Congo,” he said.

“They give me the energy to write, to speak. And if they’re dead, I think they pray for Congo. They pray for the Assumption. For the church. If they’re alive, it will be a great joy to see them again,” he added, his voice stifled with emotion.

“And to speak with them.”

Vaillancourt is editor-in-chief of Presence info based in Montreal.

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Pope Francis praises members of Refugee Olympic Team

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — In a personal message addressed to each of the 10 members of the new Refugee Olympic Team, Pope Francis wished them success in their events and thanked them for the witness they are giving the world.

The new Refugee Olympic Team arrives for the opening ceremony in Rio de Janeiro Aug. 5. In a personal message addressed to each of the 10 members of the new Refugee Olympic Team, Pope Francis wished them success in their events and thanked them for the witness they are giving the world. (CNS photo/David Gray, Reuters)

The new Refugee Olympic Team arrives for the opening ceremony in Rio de Janeiro Aug. 5. In a personal message addressed to each of the 10 members of the new Refugee Olympic Team, Pope Francis wished them success in their events and thanked them for the witness they are giving the world. (CNS photo/David Gray, Reuters)

Naming each of the team’s athletes from South Sudan, Syria, Congo and Ethiopia, Pope Francis said he had read some of the interviews with team members “so that I could get closer to your lives and your aspirations.”

“I extend my greetings and wish you success at the Olympic Games in Rio, that your courage and strength find expression through the Olympic Games and serve as a cry for peace and solidarity,” he said in the message, signed in late July.

The 2016 Summer Games marked the first time a refugee team officially participated in the Olympics. Team members marched under the Olympic flag and, in the event a team member wins a medal, the Olympic anthem was to be played instead of the national anthem of the athlete’s home country.

Pope Francis expressed his hope that through the team “humanity would understand that peace is possible, that with peace everything can gained, but with war all can be lost.”

“Your experience serves as testimony and benefits us all,” the pope told team members.

Yusra Mardini, 18, was the first member of the team to compete in Rio. The swimmer is ranked 41st among women swimmers competing in the 100-meter butterfly; Mardini finished first in her initial heat Aug. 6.

Like tens of thousands of Syrians, Mardini fled her war-torn country through Lebanon and Turkey. She found a space on a rubber dingy to make her way to Lesbos, Greece, but the motor stalled. She, her sister and another woman, the only people on the boat who could swim, pushed the boat to shore.

From Greece, Mardini traveled on to Germany, where she was given official refugee status in March and continued her training as a competitive swimmer.

Five of the athletes, including Rose Nathike Lokonyen, 23, the team’s flag bearer for the opening ceremony, are South Sudanese refugees who were living in the huge Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya.

The national Olympic committees of the refugees’ host countries, the U.N. Refugee Agency and the International Olympic Committee chose the team members. The IOC provided the athletes uniforms and is covering their costs and those of the team’s coaches and staff.

 

Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden.

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Priest killed in Congo, bishop warns of ‘dangerous’ situation

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — A diocesan priest in Congo was killed Feb. 25 in an apparent attempted robbery.

The victim, Father Jean-Paul Kakule Kyalembera, served at a parish in Mweso, situated in North Kivu province. The pastor of the same parish had escaped an attempted homicide last November, according to Fides, the news agency of the Vatican Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

Bishop Theophile Kaboy Ruboneka of Goma told Fides the incident seems to have been an act of “gangsterism.”

“The priest was closing the church door when he saw one or more bandits who were hiding somewhere,” he said. “The criminals shot without hesitation, hitting him in the abdomen and in the head. Father Kakule died instantly.”

Three suspects were arrested and interrogated by police, said the bishop. The priest’s funeral was scheduled for Feb. 28 in Goma.

The bishop said the situation in his diocese “is very dangerous” with “numerous gangs that terrorize the population” and “too many weapons in circulation.”

Priests and religious, including women religious, have been among the victims of violence and extortion in North Kivu.

“They are threatened with death if they do not pay ransom,” said the bishop.

The whereabouts of three Assumptionist priests, who were kidnapped from another parish in North Kivu in 2012, remain unknown.

 

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Prevalence of rape destroying Congo, says church official

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The high incidence of rape in Congo is not just destroying women, but is destroying the nation’s society, said the general secretary of the church’s national justice and peace commission.

In Africa, the woman is “the central and most important guardian of values in society,” said the general secretary, Sister Marie-Bernard Alima, a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Kalemie.

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