Goma, DRC, May 2020. Vulnerable children gather for a shared meal at a muslim community centre in Goma during Ramadan last week. © Ley Uwera for Fondation Carmignac
With coronavirus lockdown rules in effect, Muslims in Goma and elsewhere across Congo were unable to celebrate Ramadan together. Instead, families marked the holy month of prayer and fasting in small groups at home.
“Any Muslim would prefer to pray five times at the mosque, in a group, and to break the daily fast in a large community,” said Goma resident Djaffar Al Kantanty.” That wasn’t possible this year.
Centres of worship were closed across Congo under the country’s state of emergency imposed to contain transmission of the coronavirus. Still, Al Haj Hassim Moussa, head of the Haji Wawa mosque in Goma, said some people still came to pray together despite guidelines on social distancing.
Less than two per cent of Congo’s population of over 84 million people are Muslim. Islam made its way into eastern Congo during the 18th Century as East African Arab ivory traders travelled inland to hunt elephant tusks. Most Congolese Muslims identify as Sunni (90%) with the rest identifying as Shia.
Nearly 95% of Congolese citizens are Christian, 56% of them Catholics, 16% Pentecostal, 12% Protestant. Local traditional religions, including animist and shamanist beliefs are also common. Roman Catholicism in Congo is largely a product of the colonial era, with Belgium subsidizing missions to establish schools and hospitals throughout the country.