The religious sects which proliferate throughout Congo and Islamic extremism, among the challenges for the Church. We talk with Fr. Armand Brice Ibombo, Secretary General of the Episcopal Conference of Congo.
“The Church in the Republic of Congo was founded 135 years ago by the French missionaries of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit who arrived in Brazzaville in 1880. Since then the Church has taken root all over the Country. Everywhere there are churches and parishes, and above all communities full of faithful”, said Fr. Ibombo,
“The challenges we face”, continued Fr. Ibombo, “as a Church are manifold. Firstly, there is the formation of the laity in understanding the doctrine of the Church and in explaining the hope of their faith. In this way the laity can deal with the so-called ‘Churches of awakening’, those of Pentecostal origin, and the real religious sects that proliferate throughout Congo and do not have a good opinion of the Catholic Church”.
“These churches do everything to attract the faithful, with material goods, often financed from abroad, from the United States in particular; many of their Pastors come from outside our Country”, underlined the Secretary General of the Episcopal Conference. “There are Churches of local origin that draw resources from the population with the promise of future benefits, exploiting the credulity of the poor”.
Fr. Ibombo said that “in addition to the evangelical and Pentecostal churches, the Islamic extremism is spreading in the Republic of Congo, similar to the ‘churches of awakening’, through the collection of economic aid especially towards young people. Some offer the possibility of opening a business start-up, while others offer the opportunity to go and train in an Arab country”.
According to Fr. Ibombo, “for some time we have noticed a small increase of Congolese teenagers who have become Muslims and bear witness to their new faith by wearing Islamic clothes. At the moment, there are no problems. But we also have the infiltration of extremists in our country. Congo borders with the Central African Republic where there are Islamist groups like Seleka. Central Africa borders with Cameroon where there are the Nigerian Islamists of Boko Haram”.
“To face these challenges in addition to the formation of the laity, we need to focus on the education of young people”, emphasised the Secretary. “Our students need to be formed not only culturally but also spiritually, with Christian and human values, as the Social Doctrine of the Church urges us. If we want to have a future of peace in our Country, this also depends on our commitment to our young people”.
The priest pointed out “The Republic of Congo has been experiencing a special moment at a political level since the 1990s. This situation has led the Bishops, the clergy, the religious, the laity to commit themselves more to the pastoral level in the proclamation of the Gospel”. Patience and a continuous prayer for peace is required. The Bishops, with their declarations on the political and social situation, remind the government to think primarily of the common good and of peace”, concluded Fr. Ibombo.