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from issue no. 03 - 2009

Globalizing charity

An interview with François Xavier Maroy Rusengo, Archbishop of Bukavu

Interview with François Xavier Maroy Rusengo by Davide Malacaria

29 June 2006: Benedict XVI laying the pallium on Monsignor François Xavier Maroy Rusengo [© Osservatore Romano]

29 June 2006: Benedict XVI laying the pallium on Monsignor François Xavier Maroy Rusengo [© Osservatore Romano]

What was your experience of the war and what memories do you have of it?
FRANÇOIS XAVIER MAROY RUSENGO: The war imposed on our country, and especially on the people of this part of the east where our diocese lies, was a heavy ordeal for everyone. We had the feeling we were betrayed, abandoned by all and victims of an international conspiracy. We were convinced that it was an unjust war, imported and imposed. And above all that the Congolese people do not deserve such treatment. An incomprehensible “response”, in fact, to the generosity and hospitality offered to the Rwandan refugees, great masses of whom had flowed in from April 1994 by the decision of the international community, through “Opération Turquoise”. Despite everything, we have remained convinced that Christ is always at the side of those who suffer unjustly. Moreover, as a result of the assassination of Monsignor Christophe Munzihirwa, then archbishop of Bukavu, we felt the support and comfort of the Holy See and the whole Church. It’s also important to add that we could share our suffering and our vision with our brothers in the ACEAC (Association des Conférences Episcopales de l’Afrique Centrale). And that strengthened our faith.
Do you have a special memory of your predecessors who led the diocese during the conflict?
MAROY RUSENGO: Oh yes, I have a precious memory of the work done with each of them. Monsignors Aloys Mulindwa, Christophe Munzihirwa, Emmanuel Kataliko and Charles Mbogha were good shepherds. They taught me to stay at the side of the people during tribulations. They were the voice of a people reduced to silence and the flame of hope and courage in the midst of desolation. Neither the Church of Bukavu, nor I, shall forget these pastors committed to the weak and oppressed, of any origin or social status. They died because they dared to speak out. That’s the price to be paid in following Christ, here and elsewhere!
It’s generally accepted that the cause of these wars is to be found in the natural resources in the region...
MAROY RUSENGO: Yes, it’s true that the Democratic Republic of the Congo has the misfortune to be a scandalously rich country with poor neighbors. It is equally true that all the natural resources are coveted by the big multinational companies. But it’s dishonest of them to want to take possession by killing the legitimate owners, who are the people and the government of the Congo. If people need raw material located abroad, they have at their disposal a number of legal instruments for acquiring it! In the 21st century one can’t continue to exercise the right of the strongest rather than law itself, especially if one boasts of belonging to a civilized country. Africa should not be a milch cow to feed the children of others at the expense of its own.
What hopes do you have for your country and how do you think that a lasting peace might be built?
MAROY RUSENGO: My hope is that our country quickly finds internal peace and restores harmonious diplomatic relations with everybody. And that all the Congolese people, wherever they are, get down to productive work, not only for themselves but for our entire nation. Finally, that all those who love the Congo manage to love it letting the Congolese administer its wealth. Wealth that must be used for the benefit of all humanity, because wealth cannot be an end in itself.
The Church has been in the forefront in working for peace, has helped to shape civil society and a democratic state. Do you think that its role now needs to change?
MAROY RUSENGO: After achieving democratic, free and transparent elections, and institutions set up in consequence, the Church is now working on two different levels: first on the leaders, and then on the people who depend on them. The aim is to lead all of them, in the light of the Gospel, to work for the establishment of a new Congo. The Church breathes at the rhythm of its faithful. Until the rule of law that we are eagerly seeking is really restored and the legitimate aspirations of the population taken into due account, the Church cannot remain silent. So we think that the task of the Church is to continue until things are really back in place. Is it not true that the glory of God is living man? The real fight will be to transform our mentality, raise heads that have been for too long bent, rebuild our nation together.
Africa to the Africans... a hope still topical? What can the African Church give to the universal Church and what can it receive from it?
MAROY RUSENGO: That hope is more important today than ever. It is imperative that the African Church develops mechanisms whereby to grow and take care of itself through its own faithful rather than depending eternally on the generosity of the Western Church. To achieve this goal an adaptation of pastoral action is needed. As for the contribution of the African Church to the universal, there is family life, African cultural values, so very close to those of the Christian faith, that we must be able to preserve and pass on to the universal Church. Our solidarity with the sister Churches of the Western world must remain intense especially in this time of globalization. We need to globalize charity and all our Christian values, not war and aggressive capitalism nor the free market, which are severely harrowing Africa. We are in the same boat, followers of Christ, and we must truly feel ourselves brothers and sisters in sharing joys and sorrows. Only then will we be credible in this greatly changing world. Only then will we be the voice of the voiceless.

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