AFRICA/ZAMBIA - The Bishop of Chipata protests for the deportation of a priest of Rwandese origin

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Lusaka (Agenzia Fides)-His Exc. Mgr. George Cosmas Zumaire Lungu, Bishop of Chipata, in Zambia expressed his protest against the "unfortunate deportation " of a priest of Rwandese origin, Fr. Viateur Banyangandora, pastor of Lundazi, in a pastoral letter, which will be read in all parishes of the diocese on Sunday, August 12.
The letter, whose text was sent to Fides Agency, reconstructs in great detail, the arrest of the priest (defined by the Bishop as a "kidnapping"), which occurred on July 30.
Mgr. Lungu said he had briefly met Fr. Viateur, at the local police station after receiving a call from the priest who informed him of being under arrest. According to Fr. Viateur, the reasons for his arrest were not clear, "except-writes the Bishop-that it was in connection with the Sunday Homily in which he had spoken about cotton prices. He assured me that he never attacked the government in any way."
Afterwards Fr. Viateur was driven to Lusaka, and according to Mgr. Lungu the priest was not availed a lawyer legal and not a single diocesan official was present nor notified of his arrest. While Mgr. Lungu was trying to get news about his priest, he later found out that Fr. Viateur had been deported to Rwanda.
"We were kept in the dark about and the whereabouts of Fr. Viateur for four days until the announcement after the deportation on the evening of August 2 by the Minister of Home Affairs, Edgar Lungu, who finally confirmed, through the media, of his deportation from Zambia in Rwanda," writes Mgr. Lungu.
By defining Fr. Viateur " a good priest and a man of peace and integrity," the Bishop of Chipata says: "No amount of explanation will ever convince us that he would behave in a manner that would cause a breach of peace of our Country. Despite this injustice done to him, I still appeal to you all to remain calm ".
Fr. Viateur is a Rwandese refugee who was ordained in 2004. "He became a priest of Chipata diocese. He chose to remain in Chipata as one of the diocesan priests until his death," emphasized Mgr. Lungu.
"In the January 2012 pastoral letter (see Fides 30/01/2012), we Catholic bishops highlighted the plight facing community the Rwandan refugee community in Zambia. Could the deportation of Fr. Viateur signal the start of worse things to come for this community and for our priests? Only God knows," concludes Mgr. Lungu. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 07/08/2012)