, 02 August, 2020 / 9:09 PM
As a good number of African nations mark 60 years since they gained their independence in 1960, a Cleric serving in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has, in an interview with Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) International shared with ACI Africa, said that the Church stands out as “the only institution that functions better than any other” on the continent.
In the interview published July 28, Fr. Apollinaire Cibaka Cikongo says that amid challenging experiences in various independent African countries, the activities of the Church have had the greatest positive impact on the lives of the people of God on the continent.
“I believe the Church is the institution that functions better than any other. Despite the failings and the difficulties, it is the only one of all the institutions inherited from the West that actually functions,” says Fr. Apollinaire.
He explains, “In many places, such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo for example, you could say that the Church is the State, without which there would be no life, no hope, no future... And this can be seen in many areas, notably in the field of education and healthcare.”
“In the absence of a State that looks out for the education and health of its people, the Church is responsible for around 50% of all the schools, formation centers, hospitals and health centers, among them the best in the country, but at the same time often the only ones that exist at all those towns and villages forgotten by the State,” Fr. Apollinaire further says, reflecting on the last 60 years of his country’s independence.
In 1960, some 17 African countries gained their independence from former European rule – 14 from France, two from Great Britain and one from Belgium, ACN International indicated in a report shared with ACI Africa Friday, July 31.
Cameroon became independent on the first day of 1960, followed by Togo (April 27), Madagascar (June 26), DRC (June 30), and Somalia (July 1).
August 2020 marks the 60th independence anniversary of eight other African countries. The countries include Benin, Niger, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, the Central African Republic (CAR), the Republic of Congo (Congo Brazzaville), Gabon, and Senegal.
The West African nation of Mali gained independence from France on 20 June 1960. The same year (1960), Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria, gained independence from Britain on 1 October. Meanwhile, the Islamic Republic of Mauritania gained independence from France on 28 November 1960.
“The Catholic Church is carrying out its pastoral and social work in the face of a situation of internal fragility and external hostility, which constantly threaten to undermine or ruin its work,” Fr. Apollinaire told ACN referencing external obstacles in the way of evangelization in Africa.
The Church suffers “an internal fragility on account of the laity, who have little sense of commitment to their secular vocation, while all the social commitment of the Church rests on the bishops and the episcopal conferences, and this weakens her,” Fr. Apollinaire who is Dean and Professor at the official University of Mbuji-Mayi in DRC told ACN.
“The Church is also facing a situation of fierce religious competition on the part of the evangelical sects,” Fr. Apollinaire further said and added in reference to this competition, “We are decreasing demographically, because we have not succeeded in renewing our approach to the Christian apostolate.”
“By means of her social work, the Church threatens many private interests and for this reason undermining her influence is the objective of many of them, especially the politicians,” the Cleric who has authored around 30 books and articles on theology, social commentary and literature told ACN.
In the July 28 interview, the Congolese Cleric observes that several institutions have threatened to weaken the Church in Africa.
As a result, Fr. Apollinaire says, the Church is “hated and even persecuted by some states which, rather than facilitating her work, instead try to silence her voice, using violent and intimidatory methods to suppress every expression of criticism.”
Another strategy used to weaken the Church, the 53-year-old Cleric says, “is by creating division among Christians.”
“The Church is also facing a situation of fierce religious competition on the part of the evangelical sects,” the Congolese Cleric says, hinting to the practice of fomenting corruption through sects that spearhead the multiplication of new Christian churches, “many of which are pure money-making schemes.”
Focusing attention to African countries that have been independent for the last 60 years, Fr. Apollinaire who doubles as the President of the Ditunga Project in DRC told ACN, “The current state of Black Africa is not the fruit of a positive dynamic but rather of a dynamic of violence caused by the Western conquest of Africa – the treatment of Negro slaves, colonialism, the false independences, the Cold War, the dictatorships and the apparent democracies.”
“There are wars caused by greed and covetousness, by the economic interests of certain indigenous groups and international powers,” Fr. Apollinaire says and adds, “the struggle for the control and exploitation of the continent's immense human and natural resources is costing many human lives in Africa.”
He further says, “These powers still get more benefit from the continent’s resources than the African nations themselves due to the unjust rules of a cruel market system.”
“What little is left in the country is not managed for the good of all citizens, but according to the wants and whims of those who flaunt the power of the state and its elected representatives,” the Congolese further says.
As a way forward, the Congolese Cleric says, “Only a Church that is faithful to Christ and to the Gospel, through contemplation, humility, service, exemplary behavior and commitment on the part of all its members can be equal to its spiritual mission within society.”
“It is the one thing that Christ asks of the Church, so that she may be the temple and instrument of his love and his grace,” Fr. Apollinaire says.
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa