YAOUNDÈ, Cameroon – Bishop Sébastien-Joseph Muyengo of Uvira says the Church in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is under attack in the east of the country as various militias seek control of natural resources.
The prelate was addressing the security situation following the latest attack on a Catholic Hospital in Maboya in the country’s North Kivu province on Oct. 20. At least seven people died in the attack, including a nun.
“There is no doubt that the act was premeditated and prepared,” the bishop told Crux.
On Oct. 26, Pope Francis condemned the “unacceptable assault” on the hospital, noting that “defenseless people were killed, including a religious engaged in health care.”
Rather than weaken the Church, Muyengo told Crux that “the situation we are living in the East of the country simply makes us grow in faith and hope.”
Following are excerpts of that conversation…
Crux: How do you react to this attack on a hospital?
Muyengo: Your question comes as if to stir the wound in my heart in view of the wars, the killings, the violence that characterize the world today: Where is the world going, where is humanity going?
What we have just experienced in Maboya is the same as what we are experiencing everywhere where people are killed and massacred in the East of our country, or elsewhere, as we recently experienced in Kinshasa with these street children who decapitated a policeman, or as in France, the USA, Israel, etc., where young people indulge in massacres of groups gathered in a church, a classroom, the market, and worse when the police who are supposed to watch over the security of the population get involved, as was the case, among many others, with the one who, with the help of his knee, choked George Floyd to death, etc.
How can human beings indulge in such acts that wild animals do not do? In principle, a hospital, where life is given, cared for and often taken away, is a sacred place. That men indulge in acts of barbarism in a hospital, one does not know what to compare them to. Not even to wild animals. The animal kills to eat, what does man kill for?
Is this an isolated incident or do you feel that there is a systematic attack on the church by Islamic insurgents?
There is no doubt that the act was premeditated and prepared. Was it a systematic attack on the Church by Islamic insurgents? Rather than answering in the affirmative or the negative, one must first ask the question why. Why in the name of God or of a religion would such acts be committed? “If you want to perceive the invisible, observe the visible” advises the Talmud. The philosopher Edgar Morin, who recently left the world, says that the crisis that humanity is going through is above all the crisis of thinking. How can man think of defending the cause of God by attacking the beings created in the image and likeness of God? By attacking God, then?
The fact remains that we cannot exclude the Islamist track, whose hatred against Christians is well known. One only has to consider what is happening today in Pakistan and in other parts of the world, as recently in Eritrea where a bishop and two Catholic priests were detained after having been arrested by order of the government on October 15, for having denounced human rights violations. All this to say that what happened in Maboya in the Diocese of Butembo-Beni is not an isolated incident, especially when after the attack, a group of militias was seen dancing to rejoice in the act.
Let’s be careful so that the Islamist argument is not a tree that hides the forest, that is, that behind this accusation are not all these groups looking for land by carrying out these kinds of acts to intimidate, to scare, to incite people to leave their land to them. Let us cultivate this 13th “Munzihirwa spirit” which is “resilience”, that is to say the capacity of an individual, a society or a group to resist a brutal ordeal; capacity to absorb a disturbance, to reorganize and to continue to function in the same way as before. When asked by many to leave Bukavu for his safety, Bishop Munzihirwa refused, asking the people of Bukavu not to leave their homes. Resilience is the refusal to die, to disappear, to let oneself be defeated.
What is the life of Christians in the East of the Congo where insecurity continues to grow?
We Christians are here; we do not give up.
Since its creation, it is the lot of the Church to be martyred. Let us not forget that the Church was built on the blood of martyrs. Certainly, we must not get used to evil by trivializing the drama of death, especially when it is caused by killers, criminals, etc. The Christian does not seek martyrdom, but when it presents itself as the will of God, he accepts it, and this is a grace. The situation we are living in the East of the country simply makes us grow in faith and hope. Wherever we live, work, find ourselves, etc., we know that anything can happen, but we live, we work, we do what we have to do. The martyrdom of Dr. Silvie and her companions comes at a time when we are preparing to celebrate the 26th anniversary of the martyrdom of Munzihirwa, without forgetting the other victims of violence, killings and massacres in our country: Kataliko, Father Machozi and many others, more lay people than consecrated, not only Christians, but all faiths combined. May all this blood shed for the cause of our country be galvanized, solidified into a solid stone, the foundation of a building that resists any wind that seeks to blow it away, to collapse it, to divide it into a thousand pieces.
How do you think security could be restored in the region and in the whole country?
In my humble opinion, the State must first of all be resurrected or reborn from its ashes. Everything that is happening in the East of our country is a sign of the absence of the State. And the contradiction in all this is to talk about the state of emergency.
We were scandalized recently to hear the military authority of North Kivu praise itself for having increased revenues, but that is not why the two provinces of Ituri and North Kivu were placed under siege, it was first to establish peace and security. And when we talk about peace and security, we mean first and foremost the army; a republican army made up of the sons and daughters of the country, and not a Macedonian type of army in which we don’t know who is who, and the worst thing is the majority of the elements of our army come from these countries that are attacking us.
The Congolese do not understand this business of entrusting our security to countries that wage war against us. Last time, concerning the problem of the Ivorian soldiers arrested in Mali and whom some accuse of being foreigners, we heard the Ivorian President declare that one does not entrust the army, that is to say the security of one’s country to foreigners. The question that everyone is asking is this: What are we lacking to really have an army worthy of the name. Look at how porous our borders are becoming. There is also the part of our politicians who do not always play fair by betraying the country for money and power.
Perhaps we should also question the dynamics of our diplomacy. Often when we express our shame that it is small countries like Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, etc., that keep us awake at night, we are reminded that there are great powers behind them, but we should not forget that some of them, led by the United States, were with us yesterday, so why did they turn their backs on us? We are told that it is because of our natural resources, our minerals. But, yesterday, these powers still had control over our wealth without going through our current aggressors, and God only knows how powerful and untouchable we were at the time!
Finally, there is also the responsibility for us, the people, who sometimes play into the hands of the enemy by not denouncing certain movements or people who are suspicious of the country’s security. In a word, we are all called to patriotism. We must love our country and work for its development, which requires security and peace.