Congo and the Challenge of the New Evangelisation

The contribution of women at the recent Synod on the New Evangelisation was also expressed by the voice of Professor Ernestine Sikujua Kinyabuuma from Congo. A member of the Focolare Movement, the African lecturer highlighted the importance of the New Evangelisation in Africa where the faith is still young and in need of strengthening. “In the African world,” she explained, “the human person is divided within. There is a struggle between two irreconcilable forces: traditional culture and religion. Then there is the phenomenon of the so-called “revival churches” that present a Gospel of prosperity and success, and it is difficult to distinguish between what are authentic Christian values and what is the influence of the Western world. The African is in search of a relationship with God, but an insufficient catechetical foundation allows him to be drawn into a search for another superior force that can bring protection and prosperity.”

As a lecturer, Ernestine is in constant contact with students. During her intervention at the Synod she said that she came to realize that young people, in spite of the fact that they live immersed in a culture of “ease”, they are in search of a great ideal and of a more radical life based on the Gospel. She presented a few experiences of young people belonging to the Focolare Movement who gave testimony to an everyday life that is based on living the Word of God. Many others do not remain indifferent to this, but come into contact with Christian values.

“In the midst of the changes brought by globalisation, Africa is undergoing a crisis at every level: political, economic and cultural. For this reason, the people react in various ways as they try to find a way out,” she explained in her intervention by recounting a few experiences of the local Focolare community that were illuminated by the desire to live Jesus words: “Insofar as you did these things to one of the least of my brethren, you did it to me” (Mt. 2:40). Together they reconstructed three blocks of dormitory buildings in the central prison of Lubumbashi with the help of an international NGO. They built a tailor shop so that prisoners could learn a trade, and a shop where basic food products could be sold, along with other basic needs at a cost that was favourable to the prisoners.

In an interview with the Italian Radio Station “Inblu”, she added: “This has been a new and enriching and beautiful experience, because it has brought me into the heart of the Church.” And when she was asked: “Why a New Evangelisation for Africa and, in particular, for you own country of Democratic Republic of the Congo?” Ernestine responded: “There have been 2000 years of evangelization in Europe; for us only two centuries. In the scientific world where I work, the African goes to church, but then when he steps out of the church he goes looking for ‘supernatural forces’ that will bring him more success at work, more intelligence. . . And so the message of the New Evangelisation is quite important for us, in order to help us realize that all the answers we are looking for are to be found in Jesus. There’s no need to search elsewhere.”

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