Kinshasa, Congo — Congo's bishops said Catholics are facing a new wave of violence following the collapse of a church mediation plan, and in some places church leaders have fled to the forest.
In late March, the bishops abandoned attempts to arrange a government-opposition power-sharing settlement and, within days, violence erupted in eastern Congo.
"The militias are continuing their macabre operations — each passing day sees new killings and burning of religious buildings," said a statement on the bishops' conference website.
"The worst affected is the Diocese of Luebo, where the bishop's house, library, sisters' convent and vehicles have been burned, and priests and religious have fled to the forest with other inhabitants. The situation is harsh and unbearable."
The statement followed attacks on church personnel and property in Congo's Kasai and Kivu regions.
Bishop Sebastien Muyengo Mulombe of Uvira said the situation in Kivu had been exacerbated by the arrival of 15,000 refugees from neighboring Burundi, adding that he had been forced to suspend wages to teachers at local church schools after a delivery driver was killed in a robbery.
"The militias are arming young people who can't continue studies and have no work; in these conditions, for $20, you can manipulate whomever you wish," the bishop told France's Catholic La Croix daily April 3. "We are in a state of permanent insecurity, of car-hijacking, pillaging and killing. These are reported to us each day."