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Last Updated: Monday, 22 May 2006, 09:05 GMT 10:05 UK
Congolese Christians feel 'demonised'
Pastor Jean Bosco Kanyemesha
Pastor Jean Bosco Kanyemesha says Congolese churches play a vital role
As a conference is held in London exploring Christian and occult practices within the African diaspora, the pastor of a Congolese church in east London explains how negative media coverage of some African churches is affecting his congregation.

In 2002 the London Fire Church was founded as an independent, Pentecostal Congolese church.

But now we have gone beyond the barriers of culture and language and are reaching out to other communities such as south Africans, Zimbabweans, Angolans, Caribbean and also English people.

We have about 100 members and meet twice a week at an Anglican church in Walthamstow in east London.

When we started the church reaction in the local community was good. As we don't have our own premises we rent them from others and we used to find that easy.

But since the Congolese community has been getting negative coverage in the news, landlords want to know more about us.

They want precise details of our activities which are sometimes confidential and they even ask for references - it's like applying for a job. It puts us in a situation where it's quite difficult to access premises for church functions such as concerts.

We feel hurt by this - it's as if we have been demonised and put outside the mainstream Christian fellowship, as if we are not being recognised as proper Christians.

'Challenges'

Our children are also being upset - at school they are told 'we have seen your community on the TV, you are involved in witchcraft'.

It's quite damaging and we are struggling to try and make people understand that what they see on TV is not the face of the Congolese Christian community, if things like that happen it's outside of the Christian fellowship.

Congolese churches are working hard to improve the situation of the members of our community. Most of our people are French-speaking and they face quite a lot of challenges.

If the church is being seen in a negative way we are going to have a difficult situation as it plays a vital role in integrating the Congolese into British society.


SEE ALSO:
Witchcraft and the missing report
22 May 06 |  Magazine


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