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Priest-activist killed in Congo- had opposed illegal mineral trade

March 22, 2016

As Assumptionist priest who had led the fight against the exploitation of local mineral reserves in the Democratic Republic of Congo was killed on March 20, reportedly by members of the nation's military. 

A group of armed men, identified by numerous onlookers as members of the military, burst into a gathering at a village in Beni, asked for Father Vincent Machozi, and, finding him at work, gunned him down. "Why are you kiling me?" were the priest's last words.

Father Machozi had been involved in years in curb the illegal trade in coltan, a minerall that is used in laptop computers and cell phones. The coltan trade has been controlled by armed militia groups, and the business has been marked by violence. Father Machozi had regularly received death threats, and lived in exile in the US from 2003 until 2012 after attempts on his life.

Journalist John Allen of Crux notes that the death of Father Machozi tests the Church's definition of a martyr as someone who was killed out of comtempt for the faith. "Although the precise identity of Machozi's assains remains unknown, their motives almost certainly wouldn't meet that test," he observes. "Quite probably, they wanted to get rid of Machozi because of his activism, not his religious beliefs." But insofar as his activism was the product of his beliefs-- and his desire to help protect the native population from brutal exploitation-- the question of martyrdom still arises. 

 

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