AFRICA/CONGO RD - "The Church is under attack" denounces the President of the Episcopal Conference recalling the abducted priests

Wednesday, 27 September 2017 kidnappings   bishops   politics  

Kinshasa (Agenzia Fides) - "Priests are not engaged in politics. If there have been appeals on behalf of some pastoral agents, it is in the framework of civil commitment, respect for values such as justice, peace and reconciliation", said His Exc. Mgr. Marcel Utembi Tapa, Archbishop of Kisangani and President of the Congolese National Bishops' Conference (CENCO), denouncing during a press conference in Brussels, the kidnapping of priests in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
"We have denounced the attacks against the Church and above all the kidnapping of the servants of God", underlined Mgr. Utembi Tapa. "We continue to launch appeals to release the priests kidnapped so that they can resume their pastoral activity".
The kidnappings denounced by Mgr. Utembi Tapa occurred in the Territory of Beni, Northern Province of Kivu. In the night between July 16 and 17, Don Pierre Akilimali and Don Charles Kipasa were kidnapped by strangers in the Notre-Dame des Anges parish of Bunyuka, in the diocese of Beni-Butembo (see Fides 18/7/2017 ). There is no news of them and of the three assumptionist fathers, Jean-Pierre Ndulani, Anselme Wasikundi and Edmond Bamutute, kidnapped in their parish of Notre-Dame des Pauvres in Mbau, 22 km from Beni in October 2012 (see Fides 22/10/2012).
The area where the abductions occurred has been living in a condition of insecurity for decades due to the presence of several armed groups, most of them involved in the illegal exploitation of the vast local natural resources (coltan, tin, gold, timber). Recently, political tensions in the Country have been added due to the political stalemate caused by the failure of the presidential and political elections which were to be held in December last year.
The Church mediated the San Silvestro agreement that envisaged the conduct of the presidential elections by 2017. Some political forces might have seen the attempts of mediation by the Bishops as an interference in national political life, causing reprisals against ecclesiastical personnel and goods.
A thesis that seems to be shared by Mgr. Utembi Tapa, who stated that the kidnappers are "clearly the enemies of the Catholic Church, those who do not want things to change and those who find that their interest is threatened by certain Church standpoints". But the Church, concluded the President of CENCO, does nothing but "preach justice, peace, respect for good governance, within the framework of its social doctrine". (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 27/9/2017)