Congo's Catholic bishops deplore 'silent genocide' and call for global action

By staff writers
November 18, 2008

Member of the permanent committee of the Congolese Catholic Bishops' Conference (CENCO) have issued a "cry of grief and protest" about the murderous situation in their country - calling for more concerted action from the UN, the authorities and the international community.

The bishops say that they are "disturbed and overcome by the human tragedy in the east and northeast Democratic Republic of Congo", and that many in their congregations and communities have been affected by the appalling violence there.

In a message sent to Agenzia Fides (entitled "The Democratic Republic of Congo mourns its children without consolation") the CENCO members affirm that in the eastern part of the country they are witnessing a "a silent genocide."

"The great massacres of the population, the planned extermination of the youth, the systematic robberies used as a weapon of war...a cruelty and exceptional violence is once again being unleashed upon the local people who only ask that they can live in a decent manner in their homeland. Who is willing to take interest in this situation?"

The Bishops criticise the UN peacekeeping force, saying that "the most deplorable fact is that the violence is taking place right before the eyes of those whose duty it is to maintain peace and protect the civilian population."

They also condemn the central government, saying that "our governors appear impotent before the gravity of the situation, and give the impression that they are not prepared to respond to the challenges of peace, nor to the defense of the population and the integrity of national territory." Once more, they highlight the fact that "the natural recourses of the RDC are fomenting the greed of several powers at large. In fact, all the conflicts are taking place in economic hallways and mining deposits."

In the message, the bishops reaffirm "the existence of a plan of balkanization that we cannot cease to criticize, and which is led by intermediary parties. There is an impression that there exists great complexities with no name. We ask the Congolese people not to cede to these desires for balkanizing national territory. We advise that the international borders of the country, established and recognized in the Berlin Conference and subsequent accords, may never be placed in dispute."

The Berlin Conference (1884-85) led to the redistribution of Africa among European powers at the time and the establishment of various colonial borders, which have been recognized as the borders of the new independent states of what was then the Organization of African Unity (which later became what is now the African Union), in 1963.

To hasten the end of the conflict, the bishops are asking the national and international community to increase humanitarian aid to the people in refugee camps; inviting the Congolese population to "a national alert to live as brothers and sisters in solidarity and national cohesion"; and calling on the Congolese government to "exercise the functions of their power to protect the population and the borders."

They also make an appeal for all parties "to respect international law."

With acknowledgments to FIDES.

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