Catholic Peacebuilding Network

Enhancing the study and practice of Catholic peacebuilding

DRC--Say No to Divisions and Yes to Unity in Respect for the Wealth of Diversity

Kinshasa (Agenzia Fides) – “No to divisions and violence; yes to unity in diversity.” This is message behind the statement sent out by the clergy of the Diocese of Tshumbe in the Province of Eastern Kasai (since 2005, the Province of Sankuru), in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to the population on the eve of the celebrations for the hundredth anniversary of the evangelization of the area.

According to the agency DIA, the clergy of Tshumbe, together with the local bishop, Bishop Nicolas Djomo (who is also President of the Congolese Bishops’ Conference), decided to write to the population after they had "become aware of the need to take a clear position in light of the situation that has arisen in our region, that is, the social tensions based on a false division of Ekonda (forest) and Eswe (savanna), originated in 1963, and still in effect, and whose recent unfortunate manifestations date back to March and April 2010 in Lodja and Tshumbe.”

In 1963, as a result of maneuvers carried out by unscrupulous politicians, the Tetela community was divided into the Ekonda and the Eswe and, depending on whether they lived in the area of forest or savanna. The tensions later led to violent clashes that had caused thousands of deaths and a mass exodus of the population. These tensions remained latent in the following decades. In March and April 2010, there were a series of incidents (some people were beaten and in retaliation attacks several homes were set on fire) in Lodja and Tshumbe.

“In light of the victims caused by the painful events of 1963, which resulted in the loss of many lives and destruction of property, with the massive displacement of entire populations, first we express our deepest sympathy. We also wish to express our unequivocal disavowal of the instigators of these evil acts,” said the message.

Referring to recent events, the document continues: “in the face of numerous attempts to divide and undermine the unity of the Sankuru and the Tetela-Kusu people as a whole, we invite God’s family to remain united and steadfast in solidarity.” “With regard to the diversity that characterizes our people, we will not allow this diversity to, instead of becoming a source of enrichment, become a source of constant anxiety, fear, and division.”

The clergy of Tshumbe also denounce and “strongly reject the repeated attempts to manipulate the Church and its staff.” In honor of the closure of Centennial celebrations, the document invites all parishes, Ecclesial Base Communities, and families to organize rituals of forgiveness and reconciliation. “We extend our fervent prayer to Christ, Savior of the World, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Redeemer and patroness of our Diocese, asking her to keep us united in the universal brotherhood of God’s children,” the message concludes. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 19/08/2010)

DRC Statement on Unity