The Other War Rages Unnoticed
The conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) remains the deadliest since World War II and has resulted in the loss of over 4 million lives since 1998 and the displacement of millions more. As many as 1,000 people a day continue to die from war-related causes — mainly disease and malnutrition, but also continuing violence, primarily in the eastern region.
The war began when Uganda and Rwanda invaded to overthrow DRC’s President Mobutu Sese Seko in 1997, a bid that was successful. But they invaded again in 1998 to overthrow Mobutu’s successor, Laurent Kabila. In response, three other countries–Zimbabwe, Angola, and Namibia–intervened to defend Kabila and fought against Rwanda and Uganda. The withdrawal of these countries from the Congolese territory in late 2002 left behind a DRC in shambles.
Regional leaders have called on Democratic Republic of Congo rebel group M23 to end hostilities and leave a key eastern town they seized in a rampant advance that has sparked fears of a wider conflict. The meeting of east African heads of state went forward without a key player – Rwandan President Paul Kagame, whose country the United Nations accuses of backing the rebels – and wrapped up after less than an hour.
In their closing statement, the leaders called on the rebels to “stop all war activities” and “stop talk of overthrowing an elected government”. The Catholic Bishops of the DRC also added: “After taking the city of Goma, the rebels threaten to march on Bukavu and the rest of the Country. The latter do not engage in fighting with the national army. We hope that the appeals launched by the Heads of State of the region are heard in order to avoid our compatriots further suffering.”
The Xaverian Missionaries in the DRC
|Xaverian Missionary Fr. Crippa arrives with a load of
bricks on his bike for a new hospital
The Xaverian Missionaries, arrived in DRC (formerly Zaire) in 1958. Starting from Uvira, we have multiplied our mission stations, built schools, prepared community leaders, and provided for the birth of numerous Christian communities. We have given particular attention to the younger generations to provide them with a sense of justice, dignity of work, and openness to others in charity and mercy.
Today we have forty four priests working in the DRC over large expanses of territory. In light of the violence they are not going anywhere. We would like to share a small diary Fr. Faustino Turco, the regional superior of the Xaverian Missionaries in the DRC:
Friday 16 Oct: I arrived in the Xaverian Parish of Ndosho, Goma.
Saturday 17: Reports of clashes between the army and the M23 troops at 30 kilometers from Goma.
Sunday18: We celebrate four Masses…
Army canons are stationed near the airport to keep away the M23 troops…
In the early evening we take about 300 people into the parish compound…
Monday 19: I finish morning Mass shortly before ten o’clock. Upon leaving the church, I observed that the majority of the previous evening’s evacuees already left…
At 10.30 I traveled to the city center to check on Antonina Lo Schiavo, a lay missionary who has been in the Congo since the 1970s. After greeting her, I visit the family of Gilbert Mbula, who lives close by, yet this short distance seems enormous to me.
Just before three o’clock, I hear cannon fire very nearby and the noise continues until 11.30 pm.
Tuesday20: At midday, we hear that the M23 troops have taken control of the city. The firing ceases and the people leave their houses and cautiously walk along the roads to see the situation for themselves.…
Aware of the risk, I decide to return to Ndo-sho…
I called the parish to inform them I am on my way. They tell me to stay where I am because shooting continues in the area.
Wednesday21: normal activities in the parish. The Xaverians commemorate the anniversary of Fr. Piero Sartorio, who died in Parma last year.
- Check out more news on the war in the DRC here
- Check out more indepth understanding of the war with the Africa Faith and Justice Network and how you can advocate for the DRC with our leaders in the USA
- Please pray for and end to the hostilities
- Read the full statement of the Catholic Bishops of the DRC calling for cessation of the war