Church officials in the Democratic Republic of Congo have called for an end to a string of violent attacks against Roman Catholic churches and facilities in the country.
The National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO) and MONUSCO, the UN Organization Stabilization Mission for DR Congo, issued a joint statement Friday following a series of attacks on church ministries.
The attacks were particularly violent in the provinces of Kinshasa, Haut-Katanga, Kasaï-Central and Kasaï-Oriental, according to MONUSCO.
Incidents include an arson attack on a seminary at Malole, and a Carmelite community of nuns in Kananga. In Limete, youths vandalized the St. Dominic parish church. Cardinal Monsengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa said in that incident, the altar and tabernacle were ransacked, pews were destroyed and an attempt was made to set the church on fire, according to the Catholic News Agency.
“Places of worship belong to all, and as such, are supposed to be apolitical,” the CENCO joint statement said. “Churches are also places of contemplation for the people and must be respected and protected. By attacking them, their perpetrators and/or sponsors are harming a common good of all Congolese.”
The attacks are believed to be deliberate, in order to derail progress in the political impasse in the DR Congo. CENCO has played a pivotal mediation role in the December 31 agreement between President Joseph Kabila and his supporters, and the political opposition demanding elections as provided by the DR Congo constitution.
The agreement would establish a transitional year for dialogue and direction ahead of elections that were postponed last year, and that Kabila now claims that DR Congo cannot afford.
Kabila’s delay in affirming the December 31 agreement, along with the February 1 death of longtime opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi, have cast uncertainty over the plan’s viability.