I was intrigued on Saturday when I passed the newspaper vendor on the Boulevard 30 Juin and saw the headline: ‘Kabila teaches (Cardinal) Laurent Monsengwo a Bible lesson’. It proved to be a satirical swipe at the Congolese President’s speech and press conference held the previous evening. Kabila found it necessary to trot out the often misunderstood quotation from the Synoptics – much loved by African dictators – ‘Give to Caesar what it Caesar’s and to God what is God’s’ (Mt 22: 21). The fact itself of this press conference to the international media – the last one apparently dates from January 2012! – may be an indication of how rattled the regime feels by the rising opposition to its 17 year long rule.
Since the Catholic Church is spearheading the call for change from the current process of regression in the country and the slide towards dictatorship I was keen to attend the Eucharist at one of the many parishes in the city of Kinshasa. My way of getting a whiff of ‘the smell of the sheep’. So, at the advice of a Congolese friend, I went to the parish of St Eloy run by the Oblates. It was a real tonic to reconnect with the lively African way of celebrating. The homilist struck a very reflective note commenting on the first reading. ‘I will raise for them a prophet’…..but a prophet who presumes…’. “The first and primary task of a prophet is to listen, listen intently, discern in prayer”, he told his audience.
“And secondly, no less important, but much more difficult: a prophet often has to say what goes against the likes of people. Speak truth to power, but also carry the cross of rejection. It requires courage and staying power”.
I went away inspired. Will the leaders of the ‘Comité Laïc de Coordination’ (CLC) who organised and led the two protest marches of Catholics so far prove to be prophets of that ilk? All three, Thierry Nlandu, Isidore Ndaywel and Leonie Kandolo, are certainly much respected public figures in the country – the first two are academics and the latter a business woman cum human rights activist.
Whilst the press yesterday already announced a third march to take place on Sunday February 4th the swift denial from the CLC leadership will have put a spanner in the wheels of the overheated rumour mill: ‘the CLC is currently taking care of its dead, its wounded, those who have disappeared, and preparing the funerals of those who have left us. This is a time for reflection, prayer and the accompaniment of the grieving families. The date of the next march will be announced in due time’.
This does not sound like the utterances of raving revolutionaries to me. Maybe they qualify to be counted among the company of prophets for justice? I’ll join them in prayer.
‘It is sin for Congo to still be poor’ – Rev David Ekofo in a speech signaling support of Protestant Churches.
Fons Eppink mhm