, 20 January, 2021 / 9:43 PM
Following reported renewed killings in villages in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the Catholic Bishop of the country’s Butembo-Beni Diocese has appealed to government authorities to act in order to bring an end to people’s suffering.
In a recorded appeal sent to Catholic charity organization, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Bishop Melchisédech Sikuli Paluku decries the protracted attacks, saying that the people of God feel abandoned in a country where those in authority seem “indifferent.”
Recounting one of the attacks near his jurisdiction in the Monday, January 18 video clip, the Bishop says, “Last weekend, in a parish 20 kilometers from Butembo, about 20 people were killed. They were massacred. It is the umpteenth massacre in the Diocese in general silence.”
He adds, “The most shameful, in the words of the Holy Father, is the indifference of the competent authorities. We feel abandoned, but we still hope that somewhere in the world, in the name of the humanity we share, there are people who will commit themselves to change this situation.”
Likening the worrying situation in the Central Africa country to Calvary, Bishop Paluku goes on to apportion blame on the local media for their silence as people continue to suffer.
“People are being slaughtered like animals. There is no one trying to end the Calvary we have been living through for years. In the last year alone, about a thousand people were killed. The local media speak nothing or very little of it,” the Bishop bemoans.
For years, the rebels of the militia group Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a group originally from Uganda, have been ravaging the country’s border with DRC, an area that is particularly rich in resources.
Catholic Bishops of the Ecclesiastical Province of Kisangani have described the origin of the instability in the country as “abusive exploitation of natural resources, land conflicts particularly around the problems of the Lomami and Garamba parks, the failure to take into account the needs of the local populations and the exploitation of certain social categories by economic and political interest groups.”
In one of the latest attacks this year, at least 22 civilians were reportedly killed in an overnight raid in the Mwenda village in Eastern DRC.
Local officials and sources with the United Nations peacekeeping mission in the region said the January 4 massacre was conducted by the ADF militia.
It was the second mass killing in a week to hit the DRC. On New Year's Eve, an estimated 25 civilians were killed in the village of Tingwe.
Last year, close to 100 separate attacks were conducted in various part of the Central African country, which Bishop Paluku says left more than 1,000 people dead.
The Bishop blames the country’s security forces for their failure to protect the people. Local politicians are also blamed for enriching themselves at the expense of the helpless civilians.
“There are security people who should be protecting people and property. However, the state has fallen into discredit. The population of Beni has been struggling with the situation for 10 years and now they feel neglected. Since 2014, the situation has worsened and one massacre follows the other,” the Congolese Bishop in the video clip.
He adds, “The authorities of our country spend time discussing who will take leadership of such and such ministry. They all want a piece of the cake. Obtaining power and keeping it seem to be the only priorities. Meanwhile, the needs of the people are not taken into account. It is a sickening situation.”
The Bishop’s cry in the video clip, he says, is the cry of poor civilians who are losing their friends and relatives at the hands of bandits as those in authority remain unconcerned.
His aim, he goes on to clarify, is to attract the attention of the Church globally to the suffering in DRC owing to the protracted violence.
“We decided to voice the cry of the suffering. We give voice to people in our diocese and in the country. They asked me to record this video, and this is why I am doing it,” Bishop Paluku says in the six-minute video in which he shows images of bodies and patches of blood on the ground.
He adds, “I want to bring to your attention, and to the whole world, the suffering of the people. They bore it too long. We hope that our cry can be heard. The Church has always listened to our cry. But we also want our government to act and to bring an end to this Calvary.”
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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