Monday, September 26, 2016


Having had a chaplain several years ago who was from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, we are always interested in saints from that area, and this new martyr fits into our summer theme of Jesuits.
More than 300 Jesuits died during the 20th century for love of God. Some of them were murdered, others died as a result of maltreatment and others were simply made to "disappear" by terrorist regimes. All of them form part of our martyrology for the twentieth and twenty first centuries.

SERVANT of GOD ARCHBISHOP CHRISTOPHE  MUNZIHIRWA MWENE NGABO lost his life in 1996 during the most ignored war of our modern times. 
The Congo Wars, which flared off and on between 1995 and 2003, at one time or another involved eight nations and roughly 25 armed groups, producing a staggering total of 5.4 million deaths. Had this been Europe or North America, it would be considered one of the most important chapters of late 20th century history, but it was Africa, so the carnage rates, at best, a footnote.
Archbishop Christophe was among its early victims. As Rwandan troops poured into the eastern part of what was then Zaire in the fall of 1996, he issued a final, fervent plea for help.
"We hope that God will not abandon us and that from some part of the world will rise for us a small flare of hope."
Born in 1926 in Burhale (Lukumbo) Christophe studied first at local schools before entering the minor seminary where he studied Greek & Latin. Feeling the call to the priesthood he continued his training at the seminary of Moba (formerly Baudouinville). He was ordained in 1958.

In 1963 he joined the Jesuits and was sent to the Louvain in Belgium to study. In 1978 he was appointed Rector of the Jesuit seminary in Kenshasa. Two years later he was appointed provincial superior of the Jesuits of Central Africa. In 1986 he became bishop of the Diocese of Kasongo.

In 1994 he was appointed Archbishop of the diocese of Bukavu.  As Archbishop, he participated in the special synod on the Church in Africa convened by Pope (St.) John Paul II in Rome in April-May 1994 . On his return from Rome he had to face the tragedy of hundreds of thousands of people arriving in South Kivu , driven out of Rwanda by genocide. The whole region was destabilized and beyond the control of civilian authorities.

 For two years ' Mzee ' (" the old wise one", a title given to him by his followers) visited the refugee camps in his diocese. He drew the attention of local authorities as well as the international world of the catastrophic situation of these people, courageously stressing the need to find a just solution to the conflict that upset the whole region.

Archbishop Munzihirwa was all that stood between hundreds of thousands of Hutu refugees and potential annihilation. He had long criticized all parties to the violence. His last hope, shared with the handful of missionaries and diocesan personnel who stayed with him, was for rapid intervention by the international community. But no one listened to his appeals and Oct. 29, 1996, he was murdered along with other religious in the area.

At his Nov. 29 funeral, someone recalled the Archbishop’s favorite saying: "There are things that can be seen only with eyes that have cried.” He has been called the "Oscar Romero of Congo".

At the end of the millennium Pope  (St.) John Paul II commissioned a Martyrology for the 20th century, so that we might not forget the witness of love of God and neighbor which so many men and women of our time have given with their lives and with their deaths.

No comments:

Post a Comment