PASSION FOR GOD AND COMMITMENT
person in an unstable country
had my country, the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire), attained its independence (1960)
when it experienced several rebellions (Katangaise, Muleliste, etc…) which have marked the majority of my
people. I was born the 13th of October, 1960, four months after Independence. I have known since childhood the
regime of civil wars followed by the military dictatorship of President Mobutu.
A large part of my life was under this rule which for 32 years (1965-1997)
governed the country with an iron hand. Until 1991 no opposition, neither
military nor civil, could upset this system. Scarcely had I begun University
(1981), when Mobutu decided to close the Universities to send the students into
forced military service. I was among those who resisted being enlisted. I
joined those at the time who were denouncing this political regime. The
fighting was severe and disproportionate. On one side was a group of civilians
without resources up against a super-military power with merciless secret
following year, no longer able to study in an official University, I began my
university formation at the Catholic Faculty of Kinshasa. At the end of my first
cycle, I joined the Company of Jesus.
Passion for God
by the horrors of the dictatorship, I lived with the constant preoccupation:
“What to do for myself and my people to get out of this marginalization.”
solicitations were filed against the regime of Mobutu. But in
reality the situation only worsened. Thus, I entered the novitiate with the
conviction that one day things had to change. I asked myself if the choice that
I had to make, “Passion for God” was the best way to be “committed to people”
and in solidarity with my people.
great satisfaction I discovered among other things, at the beginning of my
formation, the topic of the 4th Decree of the Thirty-second General
Congregation. The study of this section was a key moment in my journey and the
catalyst unifying my two aspirations. It provided me with a solid argument for
a commitment to the two poles of Ignatian spirituality which I would strive,
henceforth, to uphold.
end of my Theological Studies, 1992, I felt the need to incarnate these studies
into concrete actions. With some friends, we began to create a NGO with
Christian values for the defense of human rights and
for civic education named “Jeremy Group”,
which to oppose the dictatorship, would operate openly and would use the active
and evangelical non-violent method (consciousness-raising, petitions, sit-ins,
period was the most fruitful of our commitment to democracy and good
governance. The regime of Mobutu had weakened; more than one observer had
already announced the end of the dictatorship.
1994, all local efforts had to be cancelled because of the war and the genocide
in the neighbouring country of Rwanda.
crisis in the Region of the African Great Lakes
the airplane of the Rwandan President was shot down in Kigali. War then followed and a stream of
more than 2 million Rwandan refugees poured into Congo territory.
leader of the civil society in the frontier town of Bukavu (Eastern part of RDC) I found
myself at the centre of this human drama. The Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) came
to our help by opening the first project of which I was in charge. But our
efforts to stabilize the situation were limited. Actually, the town of Bukavu was comprised of 250,000 inhabitants.
It received in 15 days over 350,000 refugees. This phenomenon created
incredible congestion for all public services. The whole social fabric was
blocked. It was at this very moment that I experienced the limitations of
working in a crisis situation rather than on its cause. I would spend my days
organizing the refugee camps, distributing food, struggling to control
epidemics, gathering together the orphans and caring for the wounded. And each
day the work became more difficult than the previous day…the needs were
enormous and the human and financial means so very limited.
crisis was a challenge for our faith. How can one even imagine, let alone
justify such things happening in a country whose majority were Christians! This
situation reduced our charity to insignificance as our conscience became ever
more profoundly affected.
after this painful experience of the limitations of generosity and of good
faith that my province offered me the opportunity to get some formation in
political sciences at the “Padre Arrupe” Institute of Policy Formation, Palermo, Italy.
1995, when I left Bukavu the situation was desperate.
The genocide had brought the total to more than 500,000 dead in Rwanda; Burundi was in civil war. Zaire (now known as the Democratic
Republic of Congo, RDC) became destabilized by the presence on its territory of
more than 2,000,000 Rwandan refugees. Like a hurricane the genocide had mowed
down human lives, all of whom were so dear to me. Bishop Christophe
Munzihirwa SJ was assassinated on October
29th, 1996 in the aftermath of the crisis, this time in
was questioning within myself this chaotic situation I began to reflect more
systematically and methodically on what could contribute towards a return to
peace, stability, good governance and progress in my country and its neighbours
to the south.
region is more than 90% Christian, I dedicated the first year of my research to
the study of the Church’s teaching on socio-political commitment.
discovered that the Christian Faith was, despite everything, a powerful lever
when it comes to working for a better world, I dedicated the second year of my
research to exploring what could become the mission of the Church in Africa and particularly in RDC. I
elaborated upon several action steps, that I have not yet finished exploring,
that could be put into practice.
1997, I returned to my country, better prepared to face and contribute
something to the multipolar crisis that had spread
throughout the southern region of the Great Lakes. Then a second war broke out in
August of 1998. By October 1998 with others we created the Network of
organizations with Christian aspirations for the defense
of human rights and public education. (RODHECIC Réseau
chrétiennes de défense des droits de l’homme et d’éducation civique).
It comprises today about 75 member and 102 partner organizations working over
the 2,345,000 km2 of RDC. The
objective was to create among the committed organizations a synergic faith-community
for the transformation of society. While working in close collaboration with
the Centre for Study for Social Action (CEPAS Centre d’Etude
pour l’Action Sociale) I
was called in 2003 to animate its socio-political dimension.
and sorrows, the Kisangani Massacres
work I knew moments of joy and discouragement. Actually, from the 14th or 15th
of May, 2002, the city of Kisangani underwent the most horrible
massacres in the history of our country. A death squadron arrived in this city
which proceeded to massacre civilian populations, to execute the military and then
mutilate their bodies. The decapitated and disemboweled
bodies stuffed into bloody sacs were then thrown into the river by this
commando from the height of the Tshopo bridge.
to the network of organizations and personnel on the spot and to the satellite
telephone that I was able to use, I have become the main contact for the cries
of despair of the martyrs of Kisangani. By keeping myself out of range of
the executioners, I can alert national and international opinion in minutes
after an outbreak of killings. Hour after hour, I publish several on-the-spot
reports and press releases denouncing this situation, indicating names of the
chief executioners and providing identities of victims. This action has
resulted in stopping on time massacre which in less than 48 hours have already
brought about some 250 deaths among the civilian population. It was possible
for the first time to retrace from where the squadron had come, to know their
number and the names of their squadron leaders.
follow-up to this information, the United Nations sent two high-ranking
Missions of Inquiry which asked that the silent partners of this killing be
arrested and brought before the court of justice. But up until now these
persons have never been searched. On the contrary, some are, thanks to the
peace, functioning today in responsible positions. Certain ones have more than
once tried to harm eye-witnesses whom we helped escape and ourselves as well. Two
Jesuits (Fathers Xavier Zabalo and Guy Berhaegen) heading for Kisangani, were ill-treated during these
Today, with the setting up of the Government for
National Unity and the perspective of free elections our work has been
developing along two lines:
preparation of the people to appropriate the future by a responsible and an
enlightened electoral choice,
formation of a political and social leadership within the religious
the situation remains difficult, but our passion for God and our commitment to
our people is a fire that no one will ever be able to extinguish.