This Tuesday the Community was blessed with a visit by His Excellency, Nicholas Djoma, Bishop of Tshumbe. He is also the President of the National Bishops Conference of the Democratic Republic of Congo. He was able to meet with a dozen residents in the neutral zone and talk about the war and the church of Congo.
The Catholic Church of Congo is composed of small communities led by catechists who are typically visited by a priest once a month. The church takes a very active role in reconciliation between the warring factions in the country as well as counseling the thousands of rape victims caused by the war. During the conflict and continuing to this day under a number of armed militias rape is used as a tactic of war to dehumanize the enemy. Approximately 6 million men, women and children were killed during the war which ended in 2003.
Congo has the wealthiest reserves of natural resources in Africa and much of the conflict has centered around “blood minerals.” Minerals necessary for modern electronics such as cell phones and computers are found in rich deposits in the mountainous eastern region of Congo. Exploitive mining practices and conflict between armed groups seeking to control the mineral veins caused most of the nation’s environmental and human destruction.
Having the opportunity to hear Bishop Djoma speak reminded me that the church continues to walk with the poor. We do not see this in the United States. The Congolese church walks with, and defends, the crucified people, the People of God as noted in Lumen Gentium, “The Body of Christ in History,” according to Archbishop Oscar Romero, and actively seeks their liberation from the systemic injustices brought about by armed conflict, weak government and the world’s addiction to “blood minerals.” He spoke of a church that when confronted by violence placed itself between the poor and their oppressors. Fr. Jon Cortina, SJ found himself in a similar situation during the Salvadoran Civil War when he placed himself between the poor and their oppressors.
Bishop Djoma’s visit was a necessary reminder about the injustices in the world and the church’s crucial role in eliminating them and liberating the People of God.
Paz y Amor,
Lose This Skin – The Clash, Too Dramatic – Ra Ra Riot, Long Nights – Eddie Vedder, Little Bird – Eels, The Needle and The Damage Done – Neil Young, Bamboleo – Gipsy Kings, Brazil – Frank Sinatra, Sólo Le Pido a Dios – Mercedes Sosa