Churches keep watchful eye on Congo's historic poll

By staff writers
July 28, 2006

Churches keep watchful eye on Congo's historic poll

-28/07/06

In a pastoral letter to member churches in the Democratic Republic of Congo on the eve of historic elections, World Council of Churches' (WCC) general secretary the Rev Dr Samuel Kobia has offered words of compassion and an appeal to the nation's leaders to put the violence of the past behind them.

"I am writing this letter to you especially - and to all our churches and, indeed, to the world - numb with grief and anger, groaning with you in anguish at the senseless devastation of your country and the wanton killings of your beautiful people in the worst wars in Africaís history," the letter states.

Written as the conflict-ridden country prepares for its first democratic elections in 46 years - the last election was held in 1960, when the charismatic Patrice Lumumba was elected and shortly afterwards murdered - the letter analyzes the history of this country and its people, and speaks of the ravages of the colonial period, of the continued exploitation, manipulation and complicity of western powers, of war and disease - and makes a passionate plea for justice and responsibility.

"Without money from the developed world to rebuild, without more peacekeepers to protect the innocent, without the genuine commitment of whomever leaders the Congo chooses and without Africaís own leadership empowering the heart of Africa, these elections will not bring any progress, and millions of people will have died in vain and millions more face the same future," the letter warns.

Assuring the "war-weary country of our solidarity and prayers, our commitment and action," Dr Kobia calls on the world "to repent of its conspiracy to exploit the Congo's resources and its people for profit, to end its indifference, and to acknowledge the shame of oppression".

And he concludes with the cry: "We must not allow the indifference of centuries of oppression and exploitation to continue. In the name of God, it must stop."

The WCC counts eleven member churches in this majority-Christian country of 56 million people.

Meanwhile the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC) says its supports the elections despite media reports of pre-voting irregularities. The three candidates are all children of previous presidents and their supporters are eager to down the other.

But the country's Roman Catholic bishops take a different view to many Protestants. They have refused to endorse the poll, although the elections have received the backing of their counterparts in South Africa.

Mennonites in Congo, who identify with the peace church tradition, are calling upon their sisters and brothers throughout the world to join them in prayer during the run-up to and aftermath of the poll. There are more than 200,000 Mennonites in three conferences.

ìHaving suffered from many years of misery, the Congolese now hope to freely choose political leaders capable of responding to the aspirations of the people. From past experience, they know that election periods are often characterized by threats and dangers of many kinds,î writes Jean-Paul Mudiji in the US-based paper The Mennonite.

Both Anglicans and Mennonites have been involved in election monitoring activities in the Congo.

[Also on Ekklesia: UK Anglican election observer invited to Congo by Mennonites; Mennonites to play mediating role in Congolese election; Churches work together for Great Lakes region of Africa; 'Never again' fund launched for genocide victims; Christian delegation meets with Rwandan President; Fairtrade and conflict-free diamonds]

Churches keep watchful eye on Congo's historic poll

-28/07/06

In a pastoral letter to member churches in the Democratic Republic of Congo on the eve of historic elections, World Council of Churches' (WCC) general secretary the Rev Dr Samuel Kobia has offered words of compassion and an appeal to the nation's leaders to put the violence of the past behind them.

"I am writing this letter to you especially - and to all our churches and, indeed, to the world - numb with grief and anger, groaning with you in anguish at the senseless devastation of your country and the wanton killings of your beautiful people in the worst wars in Africaís history," the letter states.

Written as the conflict-ridden country prepares for its first democratic elections in 46 years - the last election was held in 1960, when the charismatic Patrice Lumumba was elected and shortly afterwards murdered - the letter analyzes the history of this country and its people, and speaks of the ravages of the colonial period, of the continued exploitation, manipulation and complicity of western powers, of war and disease - and makes a passionate plea for justice and responsibility.

"Without money from the developed world to rebuild, without more peacekeepers to protect the innocent, without the genuine commitment of whomever leaders the Congo chooses and without Africaís own leadership empowering the heart of Africa, these elections will not bring any progress, and millions of people will have died in vain and millions more face the same future," the letter warns.

Assuring the "war-weary country of our solidarity and prayers, our commitment and action," Dr Kobia calls on the world "to repent of its conspiracy to exploit the Congo's resources and its people for profit, to end its indifference, and to acknowledge the shame of oppression".

And he concludes with the cry: "We must not allow the indifference of centuries of oppression and exploitation to continue. In the name of God, it must stop."

The WCC counts eleven member churches in this majority-Christian country of 56 million people.

Meanwhile the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC) says its supports the elections despite media reports of pre-voting irregularities. The three candidates are all children of previous presidents and their supporters are eager to down the other.

But the country's Roman Catholic bishops take a different view to many Protestants. They have refused to endorse the poll, although the elections have received the backing of their counterparts in South Africa.

Mennonites in Congo, who identify with the peace church tradition, are calling upon their sisters and brothers throughout the world to join them in prayer during the run-up to and aftermath of the poll. There are more than 200,000 Mennonites in three conferences.

ìHaving suffered from many years of misery, the Congolese now hope to freely choose political leaders capable of responding to the aspirations of the people. From past experience, they know that election periods are often characterized by threats and dangers of many kinds,î writes Jean-Paul Mudiji in the US-based paper The Mennonite.

Both Anglicans and Mennonites have been involved in election monitoring activities in the Congo.

[Also on Ekklesia: UK Anglican election observer invited to Congo by Mennonites; Mennonites to play mediating role in Congolese election; Churches work together for Great Lakes region of Africa; 'Never again' fund launched for genocide victims; Christian delegation meets with Rwandan President; Fairtrade and conflict-free diamonds]

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