Congo revivalist churches draw in Catholics
BENI, Democratic Republic of Congo (Reuters) – Congolese event organiser Deo Malela was born to Roman Catholic parents and identifies as such.
But like more and more Catholics in the central African nation, 28-year-old Malele also regularly attends an evangelical church where he says he finds solutions to everyday problems.
“There are illnesses where you can go to hospitals (and) you don’t find solutions, but here you have a divine and miraculous healing that you can’t explain,” he said after attending an evangelical church service in the eastern city of Beni.
“It does me good to have the base of the Catholic church and add these miracle solutions of the revival church,” he told Reuters.
Pope Francis is expected to visit Congo from Jan. 31 to Feb. 3, the first visit of a pope since 1985.
Congo is home to the largest Roman Catholic community in Africa, representing round 40% of the vast country’s 96 million inhabitants, according to the church.
Many of these followers also adhere to an evangelical movement that gained clout during the 1980s under former President Mobutu Sese Seko to counter Catholic voices critical of his regime.
Today there are over 30,000 revivalist churches in Congo, where they also known as “churches of awakening”, according to the association representing them.
“People like it because they find truth, healing and faith. The Holy Spirit speaks to them in one form or another,” said Evangelist Pastor Davis Alimasi after leading a service in his corrugated-iron church.
Malela confides in both Pastor Alimasi and Catholic priest Isidore Kambale Masingo on a regular basis. The Catholic church still gives him a stronger sense of community and “political protection”, he explained.
“We do not mock churches of awakening,” Masingo said. But Catholicism remains the “mother church”, he added, noting that Evangelism served a different type of faith.
(Reporting by Erikas Mwisi Kambale and Sonia Rolley; Writing by Sofia Christensen; Editing by Grant McCool)