Little sisters of Jesus in the Democratic Republic of Congo: Solidarity with our Bishop

Bishop Theophile Caboy of Goma, recently visiting our General House in Tre Fontane, Rome, shared his concern with the Little sisters about the deteriorating situation in his Diocese.

Here are some extracts from a letter written to his Diocese recently.

"The peace of the Risen Christ be with you” With all my heart and as your Pastor I greet you.

At this time of trial and desolation I thought it appropriate to greet you in this way so as to express my closeness and to assure you of my constant prayers.

Indeed when the peace of the risen Christ dwells in our hearts, life takes on a new dimension and even splendour!

We are journeying through troubled times but wallowing in anguish has never been a Gospel road!

To build a house on sadness would be to build on sand.

The peace which comes from Christ rises up from deep down and makes the continuation of the journey lighter even when trials and discouragement weigh heavily on our shoulders.  

'Lord, despite everything keep us. Help us to live in joy, in simplicity and mercy.' (Cf. Br. Roger of Taize)Lord you know how our people are living in fear and uncertainty.

Still under the shock of Good Friday, the Apostles felt the presence of the Risen Lord even if they would have liked Him to be with them again.  However Jesus had told them “Do not be troubled, I am going away but I will return” (Jn. 14, 1-3)

Yes Lord in this time of distress which we are living through, my plea is always the same for all those who are in my diocese:

“May they have peace in abundance”(Jn 10, 10).

At the moment the state of the Diocese of Goma is beyond all imagination. I am hearing cries of alarm from all the parishes – conflict, assassinations, villages plundered and armed robbery. The large number of armed gangs and military sow terror particularly in rural areas to such an extent that many pastoral activities are seriously blocked.

There are parishes where neither the priests nor the watumishi are able to travel freely because of the growing number of soldiers and young warriors who are around (sometimes under the influence of drugs) who accost every passer-by and demand money and issue death-threats.

There are many farmers and above all mothers who no longer dare go out into the fields for fear of being savagely violated.

School children and other young people not in education are condemned to being vagabonds and so are easily coerced into the armed gangs. Their childhood is taken from them and  they learn how to kill. There are others who go and work in the mines, which are often dens of vice.

A week does not go by without my learning that such and such a village has been set on fire and burnt. Cattle are stolen and there are people being killed and others injured.  Often the corpses are strewn along the paths.  In their haste to flee, family members do not have the possibility of giving their dead a decent burial.

During one of my visits to Matanda Parish, just before I set off for Goma, a man holding a baby of two months old came up to me begging me to do something for his baby who he had recently taken from its mother’s back – she had been battered to death. With the help of the Carmelites sisters of the parish, the baby was placed in the care of a young mother who already had a baby of one month of her own and so the baby could be breast-fed.  

In certain places it is the vice of tribalism (ubaguzi) which has reared its ugly head.  The militia start pursuing all those who do not belong to their ethnic group and so provoke the displacement of entire families to unknown areas. Then there is the abominable mania of taking people as hostage in order to get ransom money which has become a new form of currency now.

So long as there exists “THE OTHERS" as opposed to "US” we can be certain that the Gospel of Jesus Christ has not penetrated deep into our hearts.

It is a question of seeing the other (no matter to which tribe they belong) not as a threat but as a possibility of someone to discover as an “US”. We must see ourselves in them and and as providing us with an identity so much wider and bigger and richer than we could have imagined. All of us have been modelled from the same mould by the Creator and every act, every rejection of another is an affront to God.

For as long as we need to catalogue certain people as not  “BEING ONE OF US” our faith in God is weak and cannot show forth the face of God to the world: since “you are all brothers and sisters", (Mt.23,8) words spoken by Jesus himself. This is my message for you.

Beloved Brothers and Sisters,

Everything may appear chaotic, even absurd at the moment, but the Spirit is witness that at the heart of the Democratic Republic of Congo the Lord has brought about “SOMETHING NEW”.

May the Holy Virgin, Our Lady of the Congo and Queen of Peace obtain for our country and its inhabitants the grace of unity and peace. Let us hold fast in the Faith.

Bishop Theophile Kaboy of Goma