By Jonathan Luxmoore
Catholic News Service
OXFORD, England (CNS) — A church commission in the Republic of Congo cautioned that the country’s education system is being destroyed by corruption.
A report from the church’s Justice and Peace Commission in Brazzaville documented the misappropriation of government funds in 10 of 12 Congolese regions and said that nearly two-thirds of planned school upgrades and improvements had not been undertaken.
Issued in late November, the report blamed corruption for eroding teaching levels and said "shady operators" who diverted money from education should be "arrested and brought before the courts."
"Our church has spoken out increasingly about negative trends here with popular encouragement," said Father Celestin Ngombe, spokesman for the Republic of Congo bishops’ conference.
"We’ve shown it’s possible to do something if we really take a firm stand, and today’s grave levels of corruption are a case in point," he told Catholic News Service Dec. 6.
Father Ngombe said the bishops earlier condemned corruption and would continue campaigning against it.
"The church’s voice is listened to here. It can make an important difference," he added.
"Although corruption will be hard to tackle, we can make a real start by praying and acting."
Catholics comprise about half the 4.36 million inhabitants of Congo, which became independent from France in 1960 and is home to seven dioceses.
Corruption allegations have been repeatedly leveled by various organizations against the government of President Denis Sassou Nguesso, who was re-elected in 2009 and has rejected embezzlement investigations as "racist" and "colonial."
The government declared 2013 a "year of education" and pledged its 2014 budget would prioritize schools, which are modeled on the French system and have seen enrollment plummet.
The president of the Republic of Congo’s Human Rights Association, Loamba Moke, told the Jeune Afrique weekly that corruption was "institutionalized" and that official bodies lacked "the power to penalize it."
Meanwhile, Father Felicien Mavoungou, Justice and Peace Commission coordinator, said public schools had become "the place for poor families," whose children were routinely forced to sit on the floor because of a lack of classroom seating.
The bishops condemned corruption in an April 2013 plenary statement, which warned that "ancestral and Christian human values of equity, justice, honesty, loyalty and decency" were "yielding to anti-values of corruption, incivility and sexual deviancy."
"All social sectors are made gangrenous by corruption, which blocks economic growth, compromises social well-being and increases future uncertainty," the bishops said.
"In a world where corruption reigns, cheating and dishonesty are often dictated by survival needs, and the witness of honesty and transparency takes on the features of veritable martyrdom," they said.
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