Celestin is a priest. His house acts as a safe place for many organisations working in Shabunda, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. This is his story of flight and life under rebel rule.
Shabunda is totally forgotten. There are no roads which link us. Anything we receive here is via planes. In some areas there is still no government, only armed groups.
The rebels themselves have to give you permission to enter these areas. There are major security issues – conflict, health, food. Last week people were killed in the town. Bandits entered the building next door throughs the roof.
In the DRC there is no guarantee of security, especially here in eastern Congo. I have been a priest for 16 years. I think being a priest was in my heart. I went to church and was inspired. In 1996 I worked in Bakuvu. The bishop there got killed by rebels. I was about to be ordained as a bishop. When I saw my shepherd was dead, I knew I needed to move.
I went to Kindu on foot with luggage on my head. It took us three weeks to reach somewhere safe, somewhere we could protect ourselves. They killed 9 priests in front of me along the way. They were Rwandan priests. I felt deeply touched in my heart and arrived in Kasongo as an IDP (Internally Displaced Person).
We went to serve in different parishes. We are really used to being sent to very dangerous areas but I am still fearful of what I survived. Surviving was not an easy task. Priests are sometimes targeted.
I am targeted.
The role of a priest is to deal with health, education and moral standing.
The government here respects us but the rebels do not.
What is a refugee? The term has taken on a life of its own in 2016. Celestin's story shows us that not all refugees are trying to reach Europe, as the news might have us believe. People the world over have been forced from their homes due to conflict and violence. This Christmas, we're lighting the way.