Anti-Church violence worsens in Congo
The Catholic Church in the Democratic Republic of Congo is in shock after the brutal killing of a priest and a nun in two separate attacks.
Father Daniel Cizimya Nakamaga, 51, was shot in the head in the early hours of Sunday, December 6th, when gunman broke into the presbytery of Kabare, 9 miles outside Bukavu, a city in the east of the country.
Less than 48 hours later, again just north of Bukavu, attackers struck at a Trappist monastery, killing Sister Denise Kahambu.
A third person died when police trying to catch the killers opened fire on a car containing three potential suspects who were driving through the area late at night.
The killings bring to a head a growing wave of violence and tension in the region, directed – at least in part – at Christians.
In a message received by the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, Monsignor Pierre Bulambo, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Bukavu, said, “The archdiocese has fallen victim to an act of barbarism.”
He added, “The people have been traumatized and are very afraid. The Congolese are fed up of crying and dying.”
Describing the killing of Fr. Cizimya, the vicar general went on to describe how armed men stormed the presbytery in Kabare, eventually smashing a window to get inside.
The attackers made for Fr. Cizimya’s room, but when he tried to close the door to keep them out, they fired two shots at his head, killing him instantly.
Msgr. Bulambo continued, saying, “We admire the bravery and compassion of the people of Kabare in support of their departed priest. How they have responded is an example to everyone.”
In a report sent to ACN, Fr. Bunyakiri Crispin, Rector of St. Pius X Seminary, Murhesa, 15 miles outside Bukavu, described responding to an emergency cry for help from the nearby Trappist monastery, where Sr. Denise had just been shot.
He reported that witnesses described how Sr. Denise, who was guest mistress at the monastery, was suddenly confronted by three strangers. She tried to escape but was shot dead.
Fr. Crispin said that her body was discovered “lying in a pool of blood.” He added, “A woman who was one of the guests said she heard shouting and then saw an armed man running towards her but she shut herself in her room.”
Another woman, who works at the monastery, described how the attackers demanded money from her. When she refused the attacker fired a gun at her but missed.
The rest of the nuns – who eventually phoned him for help – took shelter in the monastery dormitory, sitting on the floor in case shots were fired through the windows.
Fr. Crispin said, “The whole time, the Sisters prayed the rosary and sang Psalm 129, the De Profundis, for Sr. Denise and the whole community.”
Msgr. Bulambo reported that police were continuing their inquiries but added that two of the suspects in the car that came under police fire were able to escape. He went on to hint at possible collusion between security staff officials and the attackers.
Msgr. Bulambo said that the incidents were the latest in a series of attacks on Church communities in the Bukavu area. Fr. Crispin stated that this was the fourth time the Trappist nuns had been attacked since 1996.
Describing the Church as “in the eye of the storm,” Msgr. Bulambo recalled that two months ago two priests in Ciherano were “imprisoned like rats” by attackers who set fire to their presbytery. A few days later, a group of students were robbed. At about the same time a hospital in Mukongola was burgled.
Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), which last year gave over $3.1 million to help persecuted and other suffering Christians in DR Congo, has reacted with deep concern to the killings, which come shortly after a project assessment trip to the region.
The charity gives major support to the Bukavu-based Daughters of the Resurrection, a religious order co-founded by ACN founder Fr. Werenfried van Straaten. The Daughters’ Mother House is located less than two miles from the Trappist Monastery.
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