Congolese Bishops Conference Speaks out on Upcoming Elections

The Conference of Bishops of the Democratic Republic of Congo (CENCO) published a letter on October 6 to all Congolese Catholics and people of goodwill entitled, “The Truth Wil Set You Free”   In the letter, the Bishops congratulate the Congolese people for the success of organizing the first round of elections and for coming out in large numbers to vote.  They acknowledge the shortcomings of the organization of the first round and ask the Independent Electoral Commission to learn from that experience in order to assure that the second round can be accepted with more credibility. Their harshest words go to those who perpetrated the violence in Kinshasa last July and August, saying that the violence ‘sowed doubt about the intentions of those in power to abandon the logic of arms and embrace the way of democracy.’  They reiterate their long-held position that Congo is indivisible and that its territorial integrity must be retained. The people are invited to remain vigilant to defend against any attempt to ‘balkanize’ the country or to be fooled by those who only want to better exploit Congo’s rich natural resources for their own gain.   The Bishops call for a free election in which the process is transparent, calling on all actors (politicians, election officials, citizens) to play their part in assuring that result. They take no position politically, speaking out only in their role of pastors obligated to address the moral aspects of life in society.   In that vein, they ask that the new leaders be people of virtues, literally “holy politicians,” exhibiting the virtues of a spirit of service, of integrity, of honesty and of bringing together all citizens.  Winners are called upon to avoid triumphalism and losers to accept defeat graciously while building a responsible, democratic opposition.   The Bishops thank the international community for their help in financing and supporting the electoral process but ask for their help in stopping the sale and flow of arms to the DRC.  They pointedly remind the international community that the DRC is nobody’s servant.  They also express the desire to restore relations with all of the DRC’s neighbors.   The Church will play an active role in the rebuilding of the Congolese nation, acting as ‘yeast in the dough.’  To that end, the Bishops ask the politicians to look for more than humanitarian assistance but, as part of their campaigns, to present concrete plans and programs that address the reduction of poverty, the restarting of the national economy and positive development.  Those plans and programs should be put to work immediately following the elections.   Convinced that with the right political will, Congo can come out of these elections stronger than ever, the Bishops invite the faithful to organize prayers and fasting for three days preceding the elections, asking God’s help so that the elections will be carried out in truth, dignity and calm.

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