“[There are] pressures, harassment [and] acts that jeopardize churches’ freedom of expression… This situation is not normal. I say churches because it’s all the Protestant churches, but especially the Catholic churches. It concerns everyone in the country, it’s collective.”
– François Clavairoly, president of the Protestant Federation of France
Pastor François-David Ekofo, during a service criticized the Congolese Government in the presence of state officials and members of the presidential family.
It was a brave and bold move by the Protestant pastor and yet another sign that Protestant Churches are backing the Roman Catholic Church in opposing Government corruption and increasing brutality, for which it is paying a heavy price. The whereabouts of Pastor Ekofo are, as yet, unknown, but it is thought he may have fled the country on board a UN flight to Uganda.
In a letter addressed to the Congolese authorities on February 7th, the Church of Christ of Congo, ECC, a group of 64 Protestant churches, said they had no news of François-David Ekofo, the pastor who had called on Joseph Kabila to “hand over the baton.”
La Croix International report that the pastor has not been seen or heard since Feb. 4.
During a service the Rev. Ekofo officiated at on January 16th, to commemorate the 17th anniversary of the assassination of former President Laurent Désiré Kabila, he openly criticised the government in the presence of state officials and members of the presidential family.
Calling for a political changeover, Pastor Ekofo stated:
“I particularly like races: relay races, where a person hands over the baton to a second person, then a third and a fourth… it’s the same thing in the history of the country. We take the helm and pass it on to others.”
Pastor Ekofo also criticised the unfair distribution of wealth in the country:
“God has given us one of the richest countries,” he said. “God himself does not understand why we, Congolese, are poor. God has given us everything in this country.”
Pastor Ekofo added with increased emphasis and passion:
“I have the impression that the state does not really exist. The state really doesn’t exist. We have to leave our children a country where the state is real, a responsible state, where everyone is equal in the eyes of the law.”
After this homily, the pastor went into hiding, for fear of reprisals.
According to the UN Mission for the Stabilization of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Monusco, Pastor Ekofo has taken a UN-flight out of the country.
“A figure of the Church of Christ of Congo, Pastor Ekofo, travelled on board a UN Kinshasa-Goma-Entebbe (Uganda) flight on Saturday last,” Monusco spokesperson Florence Marechal said.
A close associate of the pastor told the AFP French news agency that Ekofo went to the United States on Feb. 4.
In late January, François Clavairoly, president of the Protestant Federation of France, had risen to the defence of Pastor Ekofo and denounced the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He had highlighted, in particular, “pressures, harassment [and] acts that jeopardize churches’ freedom of expression.”
“This situation is not normal,” Clavairoly said, “I say churches because it’s all the Protestant churches, but especially the Catholic churches. It concerns everyone in the country, it’s collective.”
The supposed forced exile of the Protestant pastor comes at a time when many voices have been raised among Christians to denounce the “persecutions against the Church”, and at a time when many Congolese Catholics and lay persons live in hiding.
Since December 31st, Catholics have been organizing marches to press for a democratic transition in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. After the first march, Protestant groups joined them for the second one, organized on January 21st.
The Congolese Conference of Bishops has been particularly critical of President Kabila’s rule and have increasingly attracted his ire. Despite this, they are defiantly speaking out on behalf of the common good.
On-line Church Militant newspaper, on February 2nd, reported on how the Congolese prelates are pushing back against the intimidation by Kabila and his supporters. You may read their report by clicking here.
The population of the Democratic Republic of Congo is over 75 million. There are over 28 million Catholics (49.59%). The Society of African Missions has 9 permanent members working in the country.
We ask you to pray for all the Churches in the Democratic Republic of Congo who are seeking a peaceful transition of power and the dawning of a new dispensation that respects the rule of law and seeks to act justly on behalf of all the Congolese people.