Church leads DRC’s protest movement

The  Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) protest movement against President Joseph Kabila is being led by the Catholic Church.

Last weekend’s anti-government protests in the capital city of Kinshasa saw four people shot dead.

The United Nations mission in Congo says 47 people were wounded and over 100 arrested in the Sunday protests.

The casualties and arrests occurred two days after Pope Francis called for a worldwide day of prayer and fasting for peace in the DRC.

Many demonstrations occurred in and around Catholic churches.

Some priests held protests within the parameters of their parish grounds to minimise violence.

“Security forces blocked the roads around the churches. They came in and threw tear gas canisters into churches. They used live ammunition,” Father Jean Claude Tabu, Curate of the St. Benoît Parish in the north of Kinshasa, says.

This is the third round of demonstrations organized by the Catholic Lay Committee. Previous protests on 31 December and 21 January left over a dozen dead.

“I note with sorrow and deep concern the loss of life and injuries that occurred at the hands of those who are supposed to protect life and the rule of law.

“I add my voice to that of the Holy Father in his call for calm and peace in the country,” Archbishop Timothy Broglio, chair of U.S. Bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, wrote on 14 February to the DRC bishops.

Since December, when Kabila again refused to step down, the church and a spiritual group called the Lay Coordination Committee have organised three protests. All have resulted in deaths and have ended violently.

Kabila’s refusal to step down has aggravated violence between government forces and multiple armed groups in other areas of the country.

The Catholic church in the DRC has consistently advocated for free and fair elections.

The Congolese Catholic Bishops’ Conference has called upon Kabila to confirm he will not run for an illegal third term as president.

He was supposed to leave office in December 2016, but elections have been continually postponed.

Mass atrocities have been carried out in the DRC, killing and displacing thousands in the last few years.

The Catholic Register
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Image: eNCA

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