The Democratic Republic of the Congo is located in Central Africa. It has 60 million inhabitants living in a territory five times bigger than France. This is a country that has the potential to be quite rich, but in reality it is very poor.
The country recently celebrated its second democratic elections following a dictatorship that endured for more than thirty years and had very negative economic, social and political consequences for the people.
It is also a land where the Gospel message is welcomed with joy.
Focolarina Marisa, recounts: “I was visiting a very distant province in Équateur. The Bishop, a Bishop Friend of the Focolare, had invited us several times, since it had been thirty years since anyone from the Focolare was able to return to the area because of the great distance. When we arrived, we discovered to our great surprise that in a nearby diocese where we thought there was only a small community of ten people, there was a large community of people who were living on the other side of the Congo River. Despite their change of fortune due to war and the departure of the missionaries they had remained united.
We went to visit them, travelling across the river in a dugout canoe. We found a very vibrant community that meets together every week and shares the life of the Word. And they had many experiences to tell. For example, they walked kilometers to visit a sick person and care for him; together with other communities, they take turns caring for orphans. . . Their example has drawn others and brought about conversions. They know the story of Chiara Lubich which was told to them many years ago and which they continue to hand on orally. A few vaguely remember how the Focolare began, and when they discovered that it has spread to so many other places they were very amazed. Here, as in many other places, they have experienced that living the Word creates a community, producing radical conversions and experiences of reconciliation and forgiveness. The community has grown over the years and there are many youths. It is difficult in these places to keep stable contact because there are not even telephones. And so we write and try to stay in contact by sending letters with people as they travel from place to place, since there is no postal service in these remote regions.”
A bit of history. The Focolare’s ideal of unity reached the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the 1960’s and despite the vast territorial expanses it has spread to nearly every province, thanks to the men and women missionaries like Father Quintard in the East, Father Enrico Casali in the Eastern Province, Sister Roseline a Kikwit, Father Giovanni Santonlini in Kinshasa, Father Angelo Pozzi in Lubumbashi, Father Arther Duvernay from the Scheut Fathers of Belgium, and many others. Ever since the 1970’s the focolarini and focolarine from Cameroon and from Italy have made frequent visits and held formation courses, Mariapolises, meetings for families and congresses for youths.
The first women’s focolare was opened in Kinshasa in 1991 and the first men’s focolare in 2004. In 2011 a women’s focolare was opened in Lubumbashi as a point of irradiation for the Movement in the province of Katanga.
With the transfer of two focolare families to Kikwit for the province of Bandundu, and to Goma for the Northern province and Sudkivu, it was possible to respond to the needs of the great family of Chiara in this vast region.
Today members of the Movement in the Democratic Republic of the Congo promote many projects including social ones, to meet the extreme nutritional and educational needs of children especially. Among these, the social project “Petite Flamme” has a presence in several places in the region, and also the Medical Center “Moyi Mwa Ntongo” (The Morning Dawn). This is a land open to hope.