ACN NEWS: Friday, 10th November 2017 – Democratic Republic of Congo
A challenge carved in stone: The impact of a cathedral in Basankusu in the DRC – supported by Aid to the Church in Need
By Karla Sponar
The position of the church in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is difficult, especially in the eastern part of the country, where war has been raging for decades over the coveted raw materials mines. The effects of this can also be felt in the north-western diocese of Basankusu of Bishop Joseph Mokobe Ndjoku. For some time now, an impressive church building has towered over the surrounding countryside there. A project that the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has been supporting for many years. It is now taking on definite shape, in the middle of green fields.
Travel in the diocese is arduous
The ailing economy of the country, marked by corruption and inefficiency, has left its mark everywhere. For example, in many places the infrastructure is in a very bad state of repair or hardly existent. This means that when Bishop Joseph Mokobe Ndjoku and his employees go out to visit the parishes in his diocese of 77,000 square kilometres, they can often only travel by canoe on the rivers because the streets are impassable. It takes him more than two days to travel about 300 kilometres.
National elections are planned for late 2017. However, Bishop Mokobe reports that the preparations for these are stagnating, the round tables at which the church had time and again championed peace talks and the reformation of the bitterly divided camps that make up Congolese society have ceased to take place. The well-known exploitation of natural resources and its devastating impact on the people remains unresolved. One of the main demands of the church has therefore become “to hold the upcoming elections”.
The new church building motivates believers
However, symbols of hope continue to rise in the middle of this state of affairs. One example is the nearly completed cathedral of Basankusu. With it, more than just a building has become visible and tangible to the local people. A Congolese saying goes, “Without a roof over your head – there is no such thing as community.” As the cathedral begins to rise up out of the field, “this literally establishes the community of believers for the local people,” explains the bishop. After all, this is where they can gather in prayer or for educational programmes, for trade fairs and celebrations, on sunny and rainy days. “For them, the cathedral is a perpetual source of motivation carved in stone to do something for the common good.” It symbolises being a part of the large family of believers that stretches beyond national borders.” Therefore it is also a link to the benefactors of Aid to the Church in Need worldwide who have contributed to the funding of this cathedral. At the same time, the new church represents the challenge “for Catholics in the Congo to become active in the Christian spirit for peace,” explains Joseph Mokobe Ndjoku. Which is why he describes the cathedral as the key for further campaigns of this sort – in spite of the austerity of daily life. The inauguration of the church is planned for this spring.
(The cathedral takes shape © Aid to the Church in Need)
Directly under the Holy See, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need. ACN is a Catholic charity – helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.
The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, Aid to the Church in Need’s Child’s Bible – God Speaks to his Children has been translated into 172 languages and 50 million copies have been distributed all over the world.
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For more information or to make a donation to help the work of Aid to the Church in Need, please contact the Australian office of ACN on (02) 9679-1929. e-mail: email@example.com or write to Aid to the Church in Need PO Box 7246 Baulkham Hills BC NSW 2153.
On Line donations can be made at www.aidtochurch.org