(For helpful background, see historical introduction below)
On August 30, 1985, the Bishops of Angola announced: “On the 14th of August, Father Léonard Sikufinde, a member of the clergy of the diocese of Lubango, Sister Luzia Kautidia (baptized under the name of Celina), of the Congregation of the Holy Savior and five other people, were murdered.” They were on their way to the missionary hospital in Chiulu.
The accident happened between Mongwa and Xangongo, 20 km from the old prison. The two missionaries were accompanying a young woman in labor to the hospital, hoping to save her life. The husband of this woman was also among the other travelers. Alerted by the sound of shooting, Mongwa soldiers drove to the site of what appeared to be an ambush, where they found the burnt-out vehicle and four bodies lying on the ground. That of Father Leonardo, on the right side, and three on the left side: the young woman, her mother and her husband, riddled with several bullets. Inside the vehicle, the charred bodies of Sr. Luzia and two other people. The soldiers transported the bodies of the abbot and the three others who were on the road to the Mongwa mission. The bodies of Sr. Luzia and the other two passengers were transported and buried in Chiulo on August 16, 1985. Two passengers, a boy and a girl, had managed to escape. Their testimony confirmed that the massacre was premeditated. Indeed, the killers had been able to verify the identity of the passengers. In vain, the abbot had greeted them with a sign of peace and Sr. Luzia had done the same.
Father Sikufinde was born in Ombadja-Ondjiva, Archdiocese of Lubango, on January 1, 1940, to Daniel Neunda and Maria Mukwanaiuma. He studied philosophy and theology at Christ the King seminary in Huambo before being ordained on July 9, 1971. He was successively entrusted with several tasks: Vicar General of Ondjiva; Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Lu¬bango; director of vocations; and spiritual director of the novices of the Sisters of Charity of the Sacred Heart. “He was an excellent priest, for the serenity and strength of his faith, for his understanding, and his spirit of reconciliation.”
His activities were not appreciated by the political authorities. He was imprisoned for almost two years. His health suffered seriously. At the beginning of September 1981 he left for Rome, where in June 1984 he obtained a degree in Philosophy (Pont. Urbaniana University), with the thesis: “The philosophical and social roots of Marxism”. Back in Angola, he was appointed professor of philosophy at Christ the King Major Seminary.
He was also responsible for founding the Minor Seminary of Lubango and for animating the Newman Academy, attended by young university students. It is undoubtedly because of his ministry among young people, that his name was added to the list of people to be eliminated. P. J. Verchuur, rector of St. Peter the Apostle College, where Father Leonardo lived during his studies in Rome, testified: “He was esteemed and loved. His friends had nicknamed him “People of God,” because he often repeated this expression from the Second Vatican Council. Where he exercised his ministry during the holidays, he was much appreciated either by the priests or by the laity. He was a great communicator, especially with young people. A good worker, zealous, serious and at the same time jovial, pious and simple in his way of life.”
Father Neno Contran and Father Gilbert Kadjemenje
The signing of agreements in May 1991, between the Angolan government and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), seemed to put an end to the civil war that broke out the very year of independence (1975). With the ceasefire and the departure of the last Cubans, Angola took stock: about 300,000 dead, 1,100,000 displaced.
In their appeal for peace in 1985, the Angolan Catholic Bishops declared: “We lived independence with arms in hand. We are physically and morally destroyed. Almost a hundred priests and religious (Angolans and expatriates) have been kidnapped or killed during these years.”
- Communiqué from Fernando Guimaraes Kavanu et N. V. Mbula, Lubango, 16.08.85.
- A.I.F., 21.08.85.
This article is reproduced from Cibles: 235 prêtres africains tués (copyright © 2002), with the permission of the editors and of P. Neno Contran and Abbé Gilbert Kadjemenje (Afriquespoir, B.P. 724 Limete - Kinshasa, RDC). All rights reserved. Translation by Luke B. Donner, DACB research assistant and doctoral student at Boston University at the Center for Global Christianity and Mission.