Jehovah’s Witnesses have been active in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) since the 1940’s. Throughout their history, they have contended with war, governmental bans, and brutal attacks by members of other religions.
Official government opposition ceased in 1993 when the Supreme Court annulled the most recent ban on the Witnesses’ religious activity. Jehovah’s Witnesses are now generally free to practice their religion without state interference. However, some religious groups continue to harass or persecute the Witnesses. Members of the tribal Kimbilikiti religion have kidnapped and viciously attacked many of them. These crimes often go unpunished by local authorities, some of whom are themselves followers of Kimbilikiti. Representatives of Jehovah’s Witnesses have appealed such obstructions of justice to higher courts.
Additionally, many public schools in the DRC are sponsored by religious organizations. As a result, a number of these schools have expelled Witness students for refusing to attend and participate in religious programs at school. In 2013, the Minister of Education issued a countrywide decree censuring religious intolerance in schools. That decree, coupled with a new law on education, has already resulted in schools’ readmitting Witness children and issuing diplomas that had earlier been denied to Witness students.