During the Kivu Annual Conference sessions in Goma this summer, Bishop Gabriel Yemba Unda, Eastern Congo Episcopal Area, encouraged United Methodist pastors to call the faithful to a spirit of peace before, during and after elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Shortly thereafter, more than 30 religious leaders issued a joint statement to guide themselves and their colleagues during this crucial period.
According to Mbirizi Radjabu, president of laypeople from the Roman Catholic Church, the group called for religious denominations to organize a day of prayer, asking God to guide the Congolese to elect the best person to lead the country.
The statement also urged pastors to focus sermons on peace and nonviolence; young people of all faiths to resist manipulation by politicians; and The United Methodist Church, through the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, to help religious leaders to monitor elections.
Presidential, legislative, provincial and local elections in the Congo are scheduled for Dec. 23. Elections should have occurred when incumbent President Joseph Kabila’s constitutionally mandated two-term limit expired in December 2016. The government’s failure to hold the elections led to countrywide protests.
“We have the obligation to preach peace in our churches,” the Rev. Kobi Ramazani, said, “because before the elections, there will be the electoral campaign. The faithful will have to keep their neutrality as a church in the middle of the village.” He directs connectional ministries for the Kivu Conference and serves the Francophone United Methodist Church in Uvira.
Recently, the religious leaders gathered for a half day of prayer.
“We will have to continue with this prayer every fortnight,” said Salome Buhendwa, “until the Congolese go to the polls to elect their president [and] the national and provincial deputies in December.” She is a lay intercessor in Uvira.
Sheikh Rajabu Amosi, the Muslim representative at the Kalimabembe Mosque, encouraged United Methodists to cultivate a climate of peace and nonviolence and vowed to raise awareness in his community. He asked leaders to counsel young people to oppose violence.
The Kindu Annual Conference welcomed the initiative of the Kivu Conference clergy. Pastor Joseph Bituka of the Tokolote United Methodist Church, Kindu, said, “We want peace before, during and after the elections in DRC. The political actors know when we are going to the elections.”
He compared the elections to a football game. “In elections,” he said, “there has always been a winner and a loser. Political actors who have failed will have to accept their sporting failures and continue life. Life does not end with failure in an election.”
The Rev. Benoit Mahamudi, dean of the faculty of theology at Kindu Methodist University, said peace is everyone’s prerogative.
“We suspect that in the DRC,” he continued, “it may not be a climate of peace because the country lacks national cohesion. The government and the opposition do not combine together. Everyone pulls the string from their side, and that is far from bringing us peace.
“The church has the duty to put everyone together and show them that peace is the fruit of everyone's effort, not only those of the government or the opposition. We must be together to find ways and means to put our people at peace. This is the work the church must do.”
Kituka Lolonga is a communicator in the Kivu Conference.
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