Assumptionist murdered in the Congo
Just before midnight on Palm Sunday, March 20, the Assumption community experienced the devastating loss of one of its most devoted members. Father Vincent Machozi, A.A. was murdered at the age of 51 while performing work for peace and justice in the North Kivu region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
According to Art Jahnke’s article for BU Today, the 2015 graduate of Boston University’s School of Theology worked closely with the university’s Pardee School of Global Studies African Studies Center because of his roots in eastern Congo.
“Around midnight on Sunday, a dozen armed men wearing uniforms of the army of the Democratic Republic of Congo burst into a social center called ‘My Beautiful Village,’ located in the North Kivu region of the country bordering Rwanda and Uganda, where a meeting for peace involving traditional tribal chiefs was underway,” reported John Allen for the Catholic website Crux. “Machozi died early Monday amid a hail of bullets, with his last words reportedly being, ‘why are you killing me?’”
Machozi’s work in African countries plagued by war, political unrest and the illegal exploitation of vast mineral wealth coincides with the Assumptionist commitment to the people for whom and with whom they work.
During his post-graduate time at Boston University, he created a website, Beni Lubero Online that exposes violence and corruption in his African homeland. According to associate editor John Allen’s article for Crux, Machozi focused on attacks against his own Nande people, also known as the Yira.
“Machozi used the site to denounce what he saw as collusion among political elites, armed factions, and commercial interests in what he termed the ‘Balkanization’ of the region in order to exploit its natural resources, especially its rich coltan deposits,” reported Allen. “Since 2010, so much violence has been unleashed on the Yira—often in grotesque fashion, including beheadings by machetes—that activists such as Machozi have referred to it as a ‘genocide.’”
Unfortunately, violence such as this has become common in some of the more war-torn regions of Africa, but activists like Machozi have proven that even the work of one individual can have a significant impact on a community.
According to Allen, the vicar general of the Assumptionists, Rev. Emmanuel Kahindo, a friend of Machozi, who was with him last October, reports that Machozi sensed his death was close at hand.
“My days are numbered. I will be murdered, I feel it…but like Christ, for the sake of our people, I will not be silent,” he told Kahindo at the time. “I will continue my fight to the end and continue to condemn all those who sow division and hatred between ethnic groups in the region to rule and continue to exploit the riches.”
His passion for peace and his important work to foster a society where social justice prevails stem, Machozi said, from his Assumptionist formation.
“The spirit of our founder impels us… to go wherever God is threatened in man and man threatened as image of God” stated the Assumptionist Rule of Life.
The loss of Machozi is being felt by the Catholic community around the world. It is only one more example of what Allen has coined “a global war on Christians.”
Kahindo, who is based in Rome, encourages other Assumptionists in the North Kivu region to be increasingly cautious in this time of violence.
The Assumptionists in Worcester feel deep sorrow from the loss of Machozi and extend their thoughts and prayers to the rest of their brothers throughout the world, especially their members in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
“Fr. Machozi lived in our Boston community from 2004-2012, so the Assumptionists here in this region knew him well,” commented Assumption’s Vice President for Mission Fr. Dennis Gallagher, A.A. “For that reason, his death hits particularly close to home. He joins the ranks of countless numbers of men and women who have paid the price of their lives for taking the veil of deception off the abuse of power and the violation of human rights.”
The loss of Machozi affects the entire Assumption College population and is not limited to the religious community. His death draws attention to an important global issue of which we should all be aware.
“Many here in the Assumption community have communicated their condolences to us. His death is not only a reminder of the Assumptionists’ presence in a particularly war-ravaged country; it also calls us into a solidarity with the victims of violence in our world,” said Gallagher.
As the Easter season continues, Christian communities worldwide will continue to heal and perform the work for which Machozi sacrificed his life.