The DRC Election: A Pivotal Moment for Faith Communities

DRC Election

By Nathalie Beasnael

Standing strong against religious persecution on the African continent should be a moral imperative for the United States, particularly at this time of increased challenges to American foreign policy.

The evolution of Christian communities across the vast expanse of Africa is a testament to resilience amidst tumultuous histories. From enduring colonial impositions to navigating the complexities of post-independence governance, the spiritual fabric of these communities has weathered formidable storms. Yet, within this narrative of endurance, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) emerges as a focal point, not merely due to its size or geographical significance, but for the profound interplay between its Christian populace and the unfolding political dynamics, especially in the impending electoral landscape.

Certainly, the landscape of Christian communities in Africa is replete with instances where the absence of steadfast leadership led to persecution and vulnerability. Three glaring examples illuminate the perilous consequences of inadequate governance for faith communities.

The landscape of Christian communities in Africa is replete with instances where the absence of steadfast leadership led to persecution and vulnerability.

The Christian population in Sudan faced a tumultuous period under the regime of Omar al-Bashir. The government’s imposition of Sharia law not only marginalized Christians but also subjected them to severe persecution. Churches were demolished, clergy members were arrested, and Christian minorities were systematically targeted. The lack of protective measures and the absence of a robust stance to safeguard religious freedoms led to years of strife and suffering for Sudanese Christians.

In Nigeria, particularly in regions affected by the Boko Haram insurgency and intercommunal conflicts, Christian communities have borne the brunt of violence and persecution. The inability of successive governments to quell these extremist movements and provide adequate protection for religious minorities exacerbated the plight of Christians. Attacks on churches, abductions of clergy and congregants, and the displacement of Christian communities underscored the dire consequences of leadership inertia in safeguarding religious freedoms.

Under the authoritarian regime of Isaias Afwerki in Eritrea, the Christian community faced severe repression. The government’s strict control over religious practices led to the closure of churches and the arbitrary arrest of Christian leaders. The lack of institutional protection and the absence of mechanisms to safeguard religious minorities left Eritrean Christians vulnerable to persecution and suppression of their faith.

The DRC, a nation steeped in the richness of cultural diversity, has a substantial Christian population, primarily Catholic, whose journey mirrors the nation’s historical upheavals. The imminent December election looms large, offering a pivotal crossroads for the incumbent, Felix Tshisekedi, whose tenure has witnessed a nuanced interplay between Christian communities and the state apparatus.

In assessing the landscape of Christian communities in the DRC, it is crucial to acknowledge the intricate historical trajectory that has shaped their fortunes. Africa, a canvas of colonial conquests and subsequent post-colonial tremors, bears witness to instances where shifts in leadership led to precarious states for faith communities. The erosion of religious freedoms and communal expressions under certain regimes stands as a poignant reminder of the fragility of these communities in the face of political change.

In the broader context of the DRC’s intricate socio-political milieu, the emphasis must pivot towards the broader trajectory that his leadership offers for Christian communities.

The tenure of Felix Tshisekedi, despite facing contentious allegations, stands as a beacon of hope for Christian communities in the DRC. Under his stewardship, there’s been a semblance of stability and a conducive environment for religious expressions to flourish. The upcoming elections are not merely a political exercise but an opportunity to secure the foundations upon which these communities have sought to thrive.

It’s pertinent to acknowledge the allegations levelled against Tshisekedi’s government. However, in the broader context of the DRC’s intricate socio-political milieu, the emphasis must pivot towards the broader trajectory that his leadership offers for Christian communities. The delicate balance between acknowledging allegations and emphasizing the potential for positive change under his leadership delineates a nuanced perspective for discerning policymakers.

Historically, abrupt changes in leadership have often been harbingers of tumult for Christian communities in Africa. The need for continuity, within the realm of responsible governance, becomes a linchpin for the sustenance and progression of these communities.

In the mosaic of African politics, the re-election of Tshisekedi emerges as a tangible pathway towards safeguarding the interests of Christian communities in the DRC. His continuance in office bears the promise of fostering an environment conducive to the flourishing of religious freedoms and communal expressions, thereby reinforcing the intricate tapestry that binds faith and governance in the nation.

In fact, Christian organization and faith leaders are expected to play key roles in observing as DRC citizens go to the polls in December. L’orginisation De La Societe Civile Pour La Paix Au Congo is one such organization which under the leadership of Bishop Eric Kalala, has been laying the groundwork to ensure a free and fair election that upkeeps the interests of faith communities. “The importance of this upcoming election for people of faith, and citizens of the DRC more generally should not be underestimated. The DRC, under the Tshisekedi government has seen Christian communities thriving more than anywhere else on our continent”.

The United States cannot afford to ignore the predicament faced by Christian communities in Africa, driven by a confluence of ethical imperatives, strategic considerations, and the principled advocacy of democratic ideals. From a moral standpoint, the United States, as a beacon of religious freedom, must vehemently champion the cause of those facing persecution for their faith. The commitment to universal human rights extends beyond domestic borders, and safeguarding the rights of Christian communities aligns with the core values that underpin American identity. On a strategic level, fostering stability across the African continent is of paramount importance for global security, particularly at a time of increasing Chinese influence on the African continent. Religious tensions can serve as catalysts for social upheaval, and by addressing the challenges confronting Christian populations, the United States can contribute substantively to the cultivation of an environment conducive to peace and harmonious coexistence. Furthermore, such advocacy fortifies America’s international standing as a stalwart defender of democratic principles, reinforcing its role as a bastion of freedom and justice on the world stage.

As policymakers navigate the complex interplay between governance and faith communities in Africa, the case of the DRC epitomizes a juncture where responsible decision-making resonates far beyond political spheres. It extends to the very fabric of ensuring the safeguarding and advancement of Christian communities, pivotal constituents of the nation’s cultural and societal identity. The upcoming election in December, therefore, stands not just as a political event but as a defining moment for the preservation and flourishing of these invaluable communities.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of any entities they represent.

About the Author

Nathalie Beasnael

Nathalie Beasnael is a social entrepreneur, humanitarian and philanthropist. She is the founder of the Health4Peace non-profit which provides medical supplies to hospitals in the rural areas of Chad, Senegal, Ghana, South Africa, and Nigeria and holds a board position as Director of Community Affairs with Upward African Woman.

The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of The World Financial Review.