This year, on Dehonian Memorial Day, besides praying and giving thanks for the witness of all the Dehonians who gave their lives for the faith and in service to others, we want to remember in a special way the Blessed Maria-Clementina Anuarite Nengapeta and the 28 Dehonians killed in 1964 during the Simba rebellion in Congo.
To understand and appreciate their testimony and their death, it is necessary first to take a look at the situation in the Congo at that time.
On June 30, 1960 the Congo obtained independence from the Kingdom of Belgium. The first Prime Minister, Patrice Lumumba, a charismatic personality, remained in office for less than three months and was assassinated on January 17, 1961. In the following years numerous civil wars broke out, for ideological and ethnic reasons, combined with the still very strong presence of Belgium in the army, administration and economy, as well as the influence of the various Cold War powers, especially the United States, the Soviet Union, Cuba and China. All of this made a peaceful development toward true independence impossible.
Many Congolese had high hopes for independence, with the prospect of better living conditions, but they remained largely frustrated. It was in this context that from 1963 to 1965 the Simba rebellion conquered a large part of eastern Congo. Many rebel soldiers saw a continuity of colonial presence in the religious women and the missionaries dressed in white. The soldiers viewed them as possessing fearsome knowledge and powers that hindered the future of an independent Congo. This environment of social frustration, mistrust and power struggles opened the way to an explosion of violence, which in November 1964 victimized many missionaries, religious and catechists, including Blessed Anuarite and 28 Dehonians. Many of them could have escaped the violence by taking refuge in a big city, but they chose to remain in the unprotected missionary places, together with the Christian communities entrusted to their care. Their life is a witness to the Gospel, which embraces all people and cultures, beyond any nationalism, violence or ideology.
- Biographies: Blessed Anuarite Nengapeta – Bishop Joseph Wittebols – Father Bernardo Longo
- Witnesses of the love of God
- Prayer Vigil on Dehonian Memorial Day