11 Apr 2014 04:00
Goma, the regional capital of the volatile North Kivu province in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) , prepares for Easter. While the Congolese army is still fighting dozens of rebel groups in the region with the support of the UN, the city is still recovering from its recent occupation by the now defeated M-23 rebels.
As part of the run up to Easter, the Seraphin Choir prepares for Palm Sunday, a day that symbolizes the arrival of Jesus Christ in Jerusalem. Palm Sunday will mark the beginning of the Holy Week, and it is an opportunity for the choir to perform in front of hundreds of people at Goma ́s Saint Joseph cathedral.
For over two weeks, they have rehearsed almost every day to prepare for one of the most important days in the Christian calendar.
Easter is a time of joy for a population that has suffered for so many years. Seraphin choir's members have found singing as away, not only to embody their faith, but also as a way to find of peace and discipline. Their rehearsals can go up to 4 hours every day and attention to detail is mandatory.
Paterne Bandeke, Seraphin ́s director and choirmaster since its creation in 2006, supervises every section with an inquisitive ear. He detects every flaw that would go unnoticed for the average listener. Discipline, passion and hard work have paid off, allowing their members to express their faith in a beautiful way in front of hundreds of people during open-air masses.
From 1996 until 2002, DRC was a battlefield for several neighboring countries - including Rwanda, Uganda, Zimbawe and Angola - who fought over security concerns while plundering the country of its precious resources.
When the M-23 rebels took over Goma in November 2011, Seraphin ́s Choir had to split. Those who could afford to flee ran away south to nearby Bukavu, or to the neighboring Rwanda. The others had no choice but to stay.
Paterne saw Congolese Army soldiers drop their weapons in front of his doorstep and run away while M-23 rebels took Goma.
Dominique Briego, the sound technician, could not flee because he was suffering from an injury acquired in a biking accident. During his recovery, choristers often came to support him and make sure he was fine.
André Buke, the organist, lost his faith during the M-23 rebellion and blamed God for what was happening. However he rediscovered his faith when he escaped bomb
shelling in two separate occasions. The choir taught him to forgive and be thankful.
The defeat of M-23 and a new leadership in the Congolese army have given people hope. While a comprehensive peace in North Kivu is still elusive, Goma ́s choristers will celebrate Easter like always: with pride and joy.