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Africa

2003-05-30

AFRICA/DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO - COMMUNICATIONS DAY: RADIO FOR PEACE IN THE HEART OF WAR TORN AFRICA: ON THE SHORES OF LAKE KIVU, RWANDA/BURUNDI BORDER, THE VOICE OF THE VOICELESS

Bukavu (Fides Service) – Radio Mary Queen of Peace, Maria Malkia wa Amani is only two years old and yet even its name is a programme. Maria Malkia wa Amani the Catholic radio of Bukavu archdiocese was started at a stone’s throw from the cathedral dedicated to Our Lady Queen of Peace. The radio with the mission of evangelisation and information was the initiative of two Bishops Munzihirwa and Kataliko, who both died before it came into being. On the occasion of Communications Day, 2003, of which the theme chosen by the Pope was: “The Means of Communication at the service of authentic peace in the light of Pacem in Terris” Fides Service spoke with Rev. Luigi Lo Stocco, co-director of Maria Malkia wa Amani, committed to building peace in one of the most war torn areas of the African continent.

When was the radio started and why?
Maria Malkia wa Amani was started during the war in this part of equatorial Africa disrupted by massacres, violence, sacking and at a critical time in the life of Democratic Congo. In fact since 1998 the eastern part of Congo has lived a senseless war, a prey to invaders without scruples. We all know the riches that lie below the soil of Kivu, Maniema, and Upper Congo: gold, diamonds, oil, coltan, uranium, and more.
The founding fathers of Maria Malkia wa Amani were two Bishop martyrs. Bishop Christophe Munzihirwa assassinated on 29 October 1996 and Bishop Emmanuel Kataliko who died under mysterious circumstances on 3 October 2000, after seven months of forced exile from his diocese. Both were victims of this war, victims of truth and defence of human life and rights. The Radio was also started thanks to the generous work of many priests, religious and laity, drawn by the example of their Bishops, who felt the need to bear witness to the Gospel through the powerful means of the radio.

Tell us about Maria Malkia wa Amani
It evangelises by informing and denouncing, helping people stand on their own feet. In these two years its programmes from 5.30am to 10pm have been with the people of Bukavu and surrounding area, living the darkest moments, while guns and canons blasted furiously with their lugubrious sounds of death and destruction. On 6 April when the Mai-Mai tried to take Bukavu by surprise, the Radio followed live thanks to the courage of its journalists, the whole twelve-hour attack, trying to inform the people so as to keep the calm and avoid panic.

Who are the teams who produce the programmes?
Maria Malkia wa Amani despite its humble garage location is run by a group a lay people professional radio workers, but more important professional in their faith. Eric, who is blind, is our expert in politics with the Director Ben. It was Eric who followed step by step the long and arduous Inter-Congolese dialogue. It is he who still follows the process of transition. His programmes are very popular, because his analysis is pertinent and documented. Solange is expecting her third child. She has always her rosary beads in hand. In front of the microphone who shows all her feminine energy and in flowing Swahili she speaks, informs and denounces without fear. “Our radio must be a school for the formation of consciences. We try to help people see events in the light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ…” I am told by Sister Agnes as she begins her daily programme “ family education school”.

How can peace be built in a context of war so violent and bloody?
In this war torn area where every family has suffered profound traumas, it is not easy to find the right words to speak of peace. Peace is reconciliation, it is forgiveness, and it is recognising the dignity of every huamn person. We produce programmes, which speak of peace, sing about peace, and build peace. We collaborate with many organisations which work for peace. In these last three months we have given priority to dialogue with rival groups: we give them space to voice their opinions. Even the Maria Malkia wa Amani garage locality has become a place of dialogue and peace. Every Sunday from 2-3 we broadcast our Court of Dialogue programme: Ben and Erica with expert journalistic competence, compare the different political parties. The programme has become an appointment for about one million listeners.

Work at the Radio is not without risk for personal safety…
Ben Kabamba, Director of the radio and father of a large family, confided to me: “I have been working with Maria Malkia wa Amani ever since it began taking its first steps. The Church in Bukavu showed great trust in me and I am very grateful. I have received threats to my life, I have been convoked several times by the national security office and I have been arrested. I have been afraid but I have never doubted that my life is linked with a great cause: the cause of helping to restore peace to my country…two years of tireless work but rich in satisfaction, during which I have seen the Radio grow concretely. Two years are not long enough to take stock, but I am happy to have given with my voice more hope to my people who are suffering atrociously”.

What does it mean to be a “missionary” on the radio? How do you live your life as a missionary?
Mission has made great progress also here in Africa. I have been in this land of Congo since 1970 and for two years now I have been in charge of the Radio after working in many other fields (development, teaching, healthcare questions, catechesis, youth pastoral etc.)
The Radio is one of the new fields for proclaiming the Gospel. I see my mission at the radio like that of St Paul in Athens, Matteo Ricci in China, or many others who adapted themselves to the needs of the times and the peopel in order to be more credible and effective announcers of the Gospel. For Africa, called to modernise itself with giant steps, the arrival of the media caused a superimposition of cultures, methods, generations, interests, sentiments, religions. In all these things the radio is a means which reaches everywhere, touches all hearts even of peopel who cannot read or write. The radio is better than print media, especially for these peoples of oral tradition who believe more in the word.
At the service of Bukavu diocesan radio I feel I am truly living by missionary’s life, even more intensely, without sacrificing anything of my original vocation. My mission is to continue to offer hope to the peopel of Bukavu, to help them stand on their own feet and take their destiny in hand. Peace is justice, peace is also ‘holding hands and shouting out together all our anger and grief’. Three and a half million dead in Congo cannot be silenced or forgotten. SL (Fides Service 30/5/2003 EM lines 91 Words: 1,208)

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