Since the 11th Plenary Assembly of ACEAC in Kinshasa in July 2013, several events marked the life and the mission of the Church in Burundi, in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and in Rwanda. We will try to make a synthesis by identifying the most significant events and grouped into three points: Church events, socio-political issues, security situation and respect for human rights.
1. CHURCH EVENTS
1.1. In 2014, all the three Episcopal Conferences forming the Association of Episcopal Conferences of Central Africa have made the ad limina Apostolorum visit to Rome: the Rwanda in April, Burundi in Mai, and the DRC in September.
1.2. A delegation of the Episcopal Conference of Rwanda and the one of Burundi conducted from October 1st to 10th, 2014, a visit to the United States of America to participate in the “Annual Conference of Catholic Council of the Management of School”.
1.3. In July 2014, in the line of new evangelization, the Church of Burundi published the Bible in Kirundi and in February 2016 the Church of God in DRC organized the National Conference on Family. In August 2015, Kinshasa hosted the Pan-African Congress of leaders of apostolic movements of youth and in October, in the same year, in the Diocese of Kabgayi, Congress of Catholic Youth Students (YCS). On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum of Vatican II, a symposium, animated by the SECAM took place in Kigali in November 2015. Also in Kinshasa, in November of the same year, he was held an international symposium on the 50th anniversary of the conciliar decree “Ad Gentes” and the 40th anniversary of the post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation “Evangelii Nuntiandi”.
1.4. On the line of the International Day of Peace celebrated on September 21st of every year, it was held from September 23rd to 24th, 2015, a meeting of the Episcopal Commissions for Justice and Peace-ACEAC, in Kigali Rwanda on theme ” Common Vision and criteria of selection”. The purpose was to study how to work together for peace as much as emphasized the theme “partnership for peace, integrity for all.”
1.5. From June 25th to 29th 2016 ACEAC held its 12th Plenary Assembly in Kinshasa, during which it addressed some pastoral issues, including human mobility in the Great Lakes sub-region, the realization of the High Institute for Peace and Reconciliation (ISPR) in Bukavu. It also renewed the mandates of the elders and elected animators for its structures, namely: President and Vice President, Standing Committee, General Secretariat, Commissions.
1.6. Since the last past three years, the ecclesiastical hierarchy of ACEAC was enriched with 13 new pastors. Bishops were appointed in Burundi: His Excellency Bishop BIZIMANA; in Rwanda: Their Excellencies Bishops Antoine Kambanda, Anaclet Mwumvaneza, Célestin Hakizimana, and in DRC, Their Excellencies Bishops Placide Lubamba Felicien MWANAMA, Jean-Bertin NADONYE, Ernest NGBOKO, Jean-Christophore AMADE, Jean-Pierre KWAMBAMBA, Donatien BAFUIDINSONI, Emery KIBAL, Dieudonné MADRAPILE.
2. SOCIO-POLITICAL QUESTION
2.1. Burundi is facing a socio-political crisis since April 25th, 2015, date of the presentation of the outgoing President for a third term, contrary to what is provided in the Arusha Agreement and the Constitution of the Republic of Burundi. Since then, members of civil society and opposition parties against the third term began to protest and were violently repressed by the security forces. The election period has been disrupted and even the election schedule was pushed back more than once. Given this political crisis that led to the economic and humanitarian crisis, the Church of Burundi, by declarations, recalled the principles of the social teaching of the Church on democracy, she always called the protagonists the inclusive dialogue in order to peacefully resolve the political conflict. She agreed to play its role of observer in the elections and to send priests as members of the various branches of the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) at provincial and municipal level before removing them because of shortcomings found in the electoral process, in accordance with the agreement signed between the two parties. Through the Justice and Peace Commission, she has committed herself to education of the civic and democratic values. The Church also sent priests to be part of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
2.2. In DRC, the current signals reflect a crisis in Burundi style. Seeking to avoid such a situation and in order to contribute to the electoral process and to the consolidation of democracy, the Bishops, members of CENCO have, through contacts and declarations, called on political actors to respect the constitution and to take their responsibility. The political crisis continues and the tension between political actors do not fall. Faced with this impasse, CENCO maintains its prophetic campaign to call each other to dialogue for the peaceful resolution of the crisis. At the same time, it encourages people to pursue civic and electoral education.
2.3. In Rwanda, after amendment of the Constitution of the Republic allowing the President to seek a third term, there a peaceful atmosphere which enables the Church to continue its evangelizing mission and maintain good relations of cooperation with the State.
3. SECURITY SITUATION AND RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
3.1. The Eastern part of DRC remains a scene of unrest and military operations. The Armed groups are still active and are a major cause of insecurity and human rights violations. The number of victims is increasing, without succeeding to put the end the action of the rebels. In Burundi, the security situation following the political crisis mentioned above, remains of great concern. We still have many victims and much of the population has left the country to seek refuge in the neighboring countries.
3.2. Despite the democratization of institutions, there is a worrying increase restrictions on press freedom and human rights violations during elections, including the rights to freedom of press, to freedom of opinion, to the meetings and to peaceful protests of opposants. The violation of human rights is recurrent.
3.3. We are witnessing a progressive locking of freedom of expression. Some media have been destroyed and others closed, depriving people of having access to diverse information in a context where any contrary opinion to the current power is seen as subversive. In similar circumstances, the Catholic Church is often observe negatively upon because of his prophetic pronouncements and she is ordered to be quiet.
Without being exhaustive, this brief summary of the news of ACEAC from 2014 to today offers a snapshot that reflects the reality on the ecclesial, socio-political, security and humanitarian level. Sharing the joys, sorrows and hopes of people from Burundi, Congo and Rwanda, the Catholic Church, faithful to its prophetic mission and in collaboration with men and women of good will, is present in society and works to make its contribution for a better future.