Adventists Deny Rebel
Leader’s Claimed Affiliation
Nkunda was never a pastor, nor a member, church says; issues peace call
BY MARK A. KELLNER, News Editor
controversial rebel leader in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is not an “active” member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, nor has he ever been a pastor, the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists said in a Dec. 2 statement.
“Some media reports have claimed General Laurent Nkunda, leader of the National Council for the Defense of the People is affiliated with the church. He never served as a Seventh-day Adventist pastor,” the statement, issued by the Department of Communication, said. “While at times he has chosen to attend the church, he is not regarded as an active church member. His conduct and reported involvement in the conflict does not represent Adventist values and lifestyle.”
Various media outlets including the Associated Press, Bloomberg News, The Christian Science Monitor and the American Spectator have repeated claims attributed to Nkunda that he is a “lay pastor” or “one-time pastor” in the denomination. A search of the online archives for the Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook, official annual directory of the church, reveal no listing for a “Laurent Nkunda” as an ordained minister.
The Democratic Republic of Congo, formerly a Belgian colony, was also known for 26 years as Zaire. It has endured decades of civil war, which has had a devastating affect on the local economy. Since 1996, more than 4 million people are believed to have died in the Congolese conflict, according to United Nations estimates, mostly due to preventable diseases and starvation, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency reported. ADRA is working to help displaced persons in North-East Congo, the agency said.
“The Seventh-day Adventist Church expresses its grave concern about the ongoing violence in North-Eastern Congo, which continues to bring loss of life, misery and suffering to innocent men, women and children,” the statement reads. “The church is concerned about the well-being of its members and the operation of the church’s organizations in the region, and is equally concerned about the worsening humanitarian situation in Congo and elsewhere in the region. Hundreds of thousands of innocent people live in fear, and are displaced and homeless.”
Seventh-day Adventists “join the calls on all those engaged in the conflict in Congo to cease military activities and resort to peaceful methods of resolving any issues that might be causing the hostilities. Dialogue and negotiations are preferable to violence and the cry for war,” according to the statement. The church “also urges the international community to intensify efforts to end the crisis.”
Outreach work in the Congo began in 1920. Today, there are more than 500,000 Seventh-day Adventist church members worshipping in 1,547 congregations there.