CELAZA “Counterfeiting” Jesus & Mathew’s Baptism: Understanding Youth “Emancipation”?

Few weeks ago, I came across a baptism story of Kamaguru, a resident of the Itombwe-Minembwe Plateau. The baptism was as special as it went organized by young people who called themselves as CELAZA. These young people met with Kamaguru who looked as having taken longer than usual without showering. As per the story-teller, Kamaguru was also known for letting his clothes unwashed for long time. No one could rightly guess the motivations behind his choices, though access to washing detergents and soap would have been challenging.

At one noon, Kamaguru entered a neighboring village while requesting a support. With damp clothes, Kamaguru insisted to get helped for changing them. There hasn’t rain during the day and people wondered what has happened to the gentle dad who was so respectful despite challenging situation from which we all have evolved in. Then, Kamaguru revealed the trouble he came across in his way back home. Astonishingly, people realized that he has met these guys belonging to CELAZA community and exercised a baptism ceremony to him. They threw him into deep water as they found that he hasn’t yet been officially baptized, said Kamaguru. Then you wonder what that “Communauté” was?

The Communauté des Eglises Libres “Agahu” au Zaïre (CELAZA) has gained momentum in late 80-90s. In the specific area, the word “Communauté” characterized mostly Congregational Churches. We used to come across such concepts when referring to Christian—Protestant churches. Additionally, CELAZA included an aspect of being a “Communauté des Eglises Libres”. From the viewpoint, CELAZA would approximately mean a type of “Agahu (tobacco) Free Churches Community in Zaïre”. Literally, it was unstructured “congregational church” led by young guys in the High Plateau d’Itombwe-Minembwe with the aim of promoting freedom in their “churches” coupled with smoking values. Puzzling in understanding as no one researched on it.

Kamaguru could have been dumped or dampened into this river, who knows?

They were found all around to the extent it currently sounds as a Youth Freedom Movements, similar to what’s being called Citizen Movements or Civic Associations claiming their rights. The movements gained momentum alongside with the time football was getting attention within young people. These guys used to travel with some scaring materials such as knives. Theirs were called in Swahili “Siku za Giza”, roughly meaning “Dark Days Knife”. During their reign, people started to get frightened when travelling alone. It was specifically risky for women and ladies in general. They could unfriendly behave in front a person they meet for the first time. They have beaten moms to the extent some have involuntarily seen their nails cut.

While looking to what others do diligently negotiate, these guys have been involved into night’s incursions targeting women. They toppled congregational events held in the nights by sometimes kicking pig wearing women’s clothes. It happens that some events would have suddenly end. Besides these silly behaviors, CELAZA guys have to lesser extent behaved as normal people as they could help elders in constructing shanties. Some of them have helped seniors, carrying burdens either from markets or farms for elder people. They were extremely reliable when it came to using physical forces while defending someone against arbitrary arrest. They were important to protect people against military mistreatment or inter-community confrontation.

Back to Kamaguru’s story, the latter leaked that when he met them they inquire “His Christian Name”? He couldn’t have a response while yet baptized. It’s questionable, but a Christian name needs to be a Western one. They then inquire, explains Kamaguru, what are Jesus’ disciples’ names? Kamaguru did hear about “Matayo” by just guessing, he replied. The CELAZA guys decided to immediately baptize Kamaguru and gave him the name of “Matayo= Mathew”. Since the end of 80s, Kamaguru’s christian name is Matayo. Some sources told me that possibly he is still alive. Before judging the decision and CELAZA’s behaviors, the blogger beg your pardon and request the reader to check in the Bible a similar case of Mathew.

The story of Kamaguru reminds that of Levi who possibly got a “Christian name” of Mathew (see these references: Mathew 9.9; Marc 2.13-14; Luc 5.27-28). If you can’t locate them, not strange but you open a Bible and check the “New Testament”; these are the 3 first books of it. This one discussed in the Bible was the son of Alphaeus and my guess is that his Surname was LEVI. He was a tax collector who met Jesus in a circumstance that was so strange to admit. The Bible says that Jesus was walking around and suddenly sees Levi sitting in his office. He said to him “follow me”. Instantly, “Levi got up, left everything, and followed Him”. Though they shared a meal at Levi’s house, the story doesn’t tell anything on when he got baptized. Furthermore, the story doesn’t clearly state if Levi was the one who wrote the book of Mathew. In any case, these are similar stories in terms of suddenness.

Village of Minembwe-Itombwe where Kamaguru could have requested a help

None of Kamaguru or Levi has predicted to meet such call to follow Jesus. At least Kamaguru went back home after getting a help from neighbors. Rather, Levi would be charged of “abandon de poste” based on the way he left everything. I was trying to connect Kamaguru’s attitude from the deep water and the way he decided to never look back for fearing CELAZA’s backfire. It gives me an indication that Levi would have left his office without locking it. Were people around astonished to see a tax collector leaving his office without requesting the permission to leave? It was likely the way people have seen Kamaguru this time his clothes with a chance of getting washed and he would have an opportunity to slightly taking shower.

During the meal sharing with Levi, Jesus sounded claiming that he came with an interest of calling “outcast” than respectable people. I wondered if tax collectors were less respectable or if they were charged with embezzlement. The second option looks as the probable as it happens in different contexts. If “outcast” constituted a concern for Jesus, it might be that CELAZA were on track than counterfeiting. The socio-cultural in Itombwe-Minembwe context can lead an informed observer to guess that Kamaguru did ever receive preachers from neighboring villages. The simple reason is that even preaching the “good news” had been discriminately exercised. If so, the CELAZA in their counterfeiting style, they might have contributed in expanding the “good news” by targeting “outcast” classes. This is why taking a stance in judging the “Civic Movements” needs to think twice.

It might be that the youth movement fell into disgusting behavior while seeking emancipation. They might have lacked a clear orientation from responsible structures, especially the State-Organizations. When going through this story, the reader wouldn’t believe that some of these young guys who belonged to the CELAZA are currently Bishops of mega churches, Pastors, Lawyers, Economists, Senior Military officers and so forth. Their actual status compared to their wrongdoings in the past does paradoxically underscore the relevance of deeply understanding the fate of “conflict of generation”. It reveals the necessity of comprehending societal dynamics and mutations. Let young guy have their voices aired.


Secrétaire Exécutif & Coordonnateur

Appui au Développement Intégré &

à la Gouvernance

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