“The Church is a place of refuge and a sign of hope for the people.” With these words, a bishop in East Congo drew attention to the growing significance of the Church in this crisis region.
Vincent de Paul Kwanga Njubu, Bishop of Manono in the south-east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo made this statement during a visit to international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).
“We need a new beginning for the people. We want to rebuild the diocese, our churches and chapels,” Bishop Kwanga Njubu emphasized.
For years, the eastern part of the Congo with its wealth of raw material resources has been the scene of struggles for power and influence between various interest groups.
In frequently-changing coalitions, and away from the public eye, government troops and militias have waged a bloody war in which the neighboring countries also took part.
During this time, the local population has been terrorized, with rape and plunder becoming the order of the day. Even cases of cannibalism have been reported.
The spiritual as well as material damage is immense. Thousands are traumatized, and in the Diocese of Manono alone dozens of churches and buildings have been destroyed.
“The people expect everything from the priests,” said Bishop Kwanga Njubu, who has headed the Bishopric of Manono since 2005. He continued by saying that the people turn to the Church with all their concerns.
Some 200,000 faithful currently live in the region, and 22 priests and three religious Sisters provide pastoral care.
They, together with their Bishop, face enormous challenges: the Church seeks to help people marked by violence and terror to rebuild their lives, to develop a reasonably intact system of medical care, and also to rebuild churches, community and social
centers that have been destroyed.
It is also indispensable, in Bishop Kwanga Njubu’s view, to give strength to the priests, who have suffered no less than others from war and terror. Days of spiritual exercises, which are supported by ACN, help them to live their vocation with renewed vigor.
Additionally, a diocese synod is planned in 2012. There, Bishop Kwanga Njubu aims to foster pastoral care and preaching, in order to renew a peaceful coexistence in the spirit of the Gospels.
Another project involves the creation of a small seminary to be created in the old bishop’s residence, which was destroyed during the war.
Bishop Kwanga Njubu explained, “There, young people can experience true ecclesiastical life, and some will discover a possible vocation.”