Commemoration of our martyred Brothers in Buta (DRC): May 30, 1965 – 2015
In his book “The Calvary of the Brothers of Saint Gabriel in Congo”, Bro. Bernardin (Gaston Nijs), former missionary in Congo from 1933 to 1956 and from 1962 to 1967 and former Provincial of Belgium Province (1956 to 1962) wrote: “The European religious (as thirty counted by a witness – 7 Brothers of Saint Gabriel and 21 Fathers and Brothers of Crosier), arranged in two rows on top of the hill, were calm despite the insults and blows. Nobody screamed or cried!
They had to go down one by one, struck first with sticks. Arriving on the bank of river, a knife stabbed to the right side; once fallen, some macheted from the neck to the cervical portion, and then thrown into the water of Rubi. Finishing with the canoe of rifle those who still responded…”
Every year towards the end of May, we commemorated this, usually in Hasselt, in the church of Fathers of Croissiers and also in other places, for example in Liedekerke where we erected a statue of Father Montfort in 2005 to mark forty years of the event.
This year – the 50th anniversary – was commemorated first in Uden in Netherlands on 30th May, 2015. This commemoration was something special because we noted the presence of two Congolese Brothers (Bro. Luc, Provincial Superior and Bro. Timothy, Bursar), four Indian Brothers (Provincials of Hyderabad, Pune and Ranchi Provinces and Bro. Jayapal Reddy, In Charge of Communication in Rome) and Raf en Fouquet, missionary from 1953 to 2010. The welcome was warm with a cup of coffee and cake. After that, followed a presentation with interviews which gave us an idea of how the martyrs lived the last months of their lives. Several Crosier Fathers – with delegations of Africa – concelebrated the Mass. It was a beautiful day of meeting and prayer.
The next day we had celebrations in the parish of Br. Bernard (Frans) De Kegel, a martyred Brother, with the initiative of his family members. After the Mass, where the Brother’s memory was convened, we had the opportunity to visit a small exhibition on the life of Bro.Bernard. The friendly drink facilitated the meeting after the Mass.
A week later – June 7 – we invited the families of the Brothers Bernard and Guido Gilbert – former students of the school of Liedekerke – for a celebration near the statue of our Father de Montfort in Liedekerke. Bro. Raf Fouquet spoke about the lives of his colleagues in the region of Uele. Bro. Timothy, on behalf of the province, announced the construction of a souvenir monument in Kinshasa to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the death of our seven Brothers, martyred missionaries. He also told us about the commemoration of the martyred Brothers in Bondo in the words of Bishop Stephen: “The Diocese of Bondo remembered for two days, the missionaries brutally killed on May 30, 1965 in Buta by the rebels. The Faithful laid flowers and prayed at the memorial site… The Eucharist on Sunday of the Holy Trinity was celebrated for four hours in the presence of a large crowd and a delegation of Crosier Fathers and Brothers of St. Gabriel…” Concluding his testimony, Bro. Timothy asked us to continue to help the fifty Brothers of Congo and pray for them.
After the celebration, we gathered for a delicious meal in a friendly atmosphere.