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Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Congo's bishops urge citizens to fight corruption in their country

The Catholic bishops of Congo have called on each citizen to become personally involved in the fight against deeply rooted corruption in the African country.

The bishops describe corruption as "one of the bases for the unequal distribution of national resources between the wealthy classes, made up of public authorities, and the majority of the population who live in misery."

In a pastoral letter, "Restoration of the Nation by the Fight Against Corruption," the Kinshasa-based bishops' conference said that, "despite commitments made by the government, we see no real determination of our political leaders to put in place mechanisms to prevent and punishcorruption."

In the July 10 letter, read in churches July 12 and published on the conference Web site, the bishops said corrupt practices are gradually eating their way into governmental affairs. Suchcorruption can only be fought with a "merciless struggle," they said.

"The success of this struggle will also depend on the population, urged to abandon its passivity in denouncing corruption and, therefore, to avoid becoming accomplices in an evil of which the people themselves are the first victim," they said.

The letter was written in the context of the 49th anniversary of Congo's independence from Belgium, celebrated June 30.

As the 50th anniversary approaches, the bishops declared a jubilee year, "a year of renewal and joy, of turning back to God, to put an end to the practices of corruption and sin that are destroying the nation, and to build with God, in justice, a fraternal, prosperous and happy Congo."

Looking back over 49 years of independence, the bishops noted "undeniable advances," including resistance to several attempts to divide the country by the secession of provinces; the creation of democratic institutions; and an educated class. But they also noted that the country has gone backward in several areas.

"Throughout the years, anti-values have deconstructed the ethical tissue of our society," the bishops said. These include "repeated wars which have led thousands to their deaths," social infrastructures on the verge of collapse, and the malfunction of public and territorial administrations, the courts, national education and the armed forces.

Such social problems and deeply rooted corruption also can be attributed to the absence or dysfunction of all state institutions, and the bishops described every Congolese citizen as "abandoned by the state, at the mercy of any forces."

The bishops referred to the Congolese who had fled conflict in their nation but were forced by neighboring countries to return in "conditions of violence and humiliation which have still not drawn any credible reaction of indignation from our political leaders."

Those repatriated and the Congolese displaced within their country because of fighting are "abandoned to their sad fate, without any assistance proportional to their distress."

The presence of armed groups that periodically destroy parts of the East and Northeast are outside the control of the authorities and are another symptom of the weak society that should be a matter of great concern to the government, the bishops said.

In the face of the country's incapacity to deal with the needs of a suffering population, international aid organizations set themselves up "wherever they want to and do whatever they want to," the bishops said. Congolese nongovernmental organizations that spring up, profiting from the absence of the state, are "ingenious in their embezzlement of funds and resources intended for the poor."

However, the bishops said, the Congolese government should not shoulder the entire blame for the weak state of the nation. They said such weakness may be "orchestrated by organizations and shadowy forces who would wish to control the (Democratic Republic of) Congo and its mineral wealth for their own exploitation." Such forces, the bishops said, work "hand in hand with those Congolese who place their own private interests above the interests of those of the majority of the population."

Some people have raised questions about the real will of some international powers to put an end to the conflicts in the country in order to maintain in Congo such organizations and "shadowy forces."

Although the bishops did not name any countries, Rwanda and Uganda have armed groups fighting on Congolese territory, and they receive support from other countries, including the United States, Britain and Belgium. The latter powers are influential in decisions made regarding the presence of U.N. peacekeeping troops in war zones.

The bishops called on the faithful to meditate on such issues as the church embarks on the 2009-2010 jubilee year. They asked Catholics to participate in "fervent prayer, acts of repentance for the past in order to obtain from God goodness and mercy, an abundance of divine grace, profound and lasting peace brought by the irrevocable advancement toward progress and prosperity for all, without exception."

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