KINSHASA, Congo — Catholic bishops in Congo have instructed clergy to toll their church bells each week until fresh elections are held.
“After morning Mass, we expect a prayer for the nation and the reading of extracts from bishops’ conference messages — with church bells sounding each Thursday,” Monsignor Jean-Marie Bomengola, secretary of the bishops’ commission for social communications, said in a Dec. 13 statement. “We invite the faithful and population in general to accompany the bells with every kind of outcry and uproar: banging saucepans, blowing whistles and vuvuzelas, and sounding car horns.”
In late November, the bishops’ conference accused Congo’s National Electoral Commission of backsliding on preparations for elections and urged President Joseph Kabila to release political detainees and stick to the Dec. 31, 2016, accord, which allowed Kabila to stay in office alongside an opposition head of government, pending elections by the end of 2017.
However, Archbishop Marcel Utembi Tapa of Kisangani, bishops’ conference president, pulled out of implementation talks last March, accusing politicians of ignoring “the welfare of the people,” and in November the Electoral Commission said the ballot would be postponed till December 2018.
In a joint statement with other religious leaders Dec. 6, Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa said 4 million people were now displaced, and 7 million facing starvation in Congo’s central Kasai region. A Nov. 30 U.N. report said 160,000 children are dying yearly of malnutrition in Kasai.