Your prayers are urgently needed for our brothers and sisters in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Recently, two women were injured when a bomb exploded in a church. The suspected perpetrators are the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a militant group who continue to target the eastern region’s largely Christian population as part of their Islamic expansionist agenda.
The inside of the church where a bomb recently exploded
Two Christian women were injured when a bomb exploded in a church in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The explosion happened in the city of Beni in north eastern DRC on Sunday 27 June. The two women serve as deacons at Emmanuel Church and were preparing for a service when the bomb exploded.
Another bomb was located at a separate church. Thankfully, a controlled explosion was carried out to prevent further hurt and damage. However, two further bombs did detonate over the same weekend: one next to a petrol station on the outskirts of Beni, and the other when a suicide bomber detonated himself outside a bar in Beni. No casualties have been reported.
The Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) – a group which claims to have links to so-called Islamic State – is suspected to be behind the bombs.
“It was very early and I was still in bed when I heard a bomb explosion,” recalls Atonisha Kambale, a resident of the neighbourhood where the church is based. His name has been changed for security reasons. “I later realised the explosion was in the church. I got there at 7am. There were many people; the military and the mayor of the town had already come down with his team to investigate and check the damage.”
"I felt really tormented by what I witnessed" 'Antonisha'
According to Atonisha, who’s not a member of Emmanuel Church, the bomb is believed to have been planted the previous evening. “The man might have entered the church during the youth service on Saturday,” he says. “He might have disguised himself as a churchgoer. That is what we think.”
On reaching the church, Atonisha witnessed a scene of devastation. “I saw the damage from the explosion. People were in great anxiety. The mothers and members of the parish were crying. Others were talking, sharing their despair. I felt really tormented by what I witnessed, because recently our president established martial law in this part of the country. We hoped that would bring more security. So, when this attack happened, it really upset me. I almost cried because of this incident. It is really painful.”
The martial law referred to was declared in North Kivu and Ituri, two provinces bordering Uganda, at the beginning of May. The intention was to stifle a surge in violence by militant groups. Despite a period of relative calm, attacks have resumed.
In May, 22 people were killed in Bulongo, a village close to Beni in North Kivu. Just four days after the explosion at the church, Beni was again targeted when a group of armed men set fire to several houses and attacked people attempting to flee. At least ten people were killed. The ADF are again believed to be responsible for both attacks. The escalating violence has resulted in over 1.5 million people being displaced from their homes.
Christians in DRC face some of the most extreme violence in the world. The ADF and other militant groups kidnap, torture and murder believers. They also destroy homes and forcibly recruit Christians to their groups. Meanwhile, Christian women are vulnerable to rape and sexual slavery. Persecution in the country is getting significantly worse, which is why DRC rose 17 places in the latest Open Doors World Watch List to number 40.
"People are depressed and in despair" 'Atonisha'
Whilst most militant groups are driven by ethnic and economic factors, the ADF is pursuing an Islamic expansionist agenda through violent attacks and ambushes. They have so far succeeded in controlling vast areas of the countryside, first in North Kivu province but now also in Ituri province. For many years, Open Doors’ sources have warned that the ADF is working to uproot the local, mostly Christian, population to expand their foothold.
“People are depressed and in despair,” Atonisha continues. “There is not much movement in town. People must remain home since yesterday and today. Because we think there are other bombs in places, the authorities have forbidden gatherings in markets and nightclubs. Even church services are forbidden.”
The escalating violence in DRC is reflective of the bigger picture in sub-Saharan Africa. In 2020, levels of violence against Christians were up to 30 per cent higher than in the previous year. It was one of the key trends to emerge from the latest World Watch List. Please continue to keep this region and its believers in your prayers.
Explore Among the Ashes, a new film and prayer resource for churches from Open Doors. It looks at how the biblical principle of lament can bring us hope and comfort, even in the darkest situations.
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