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16 January 2023

Church bombing, pastor killed and kidnappings: four attacks in sub-Saharan Africa

Four separate attacks in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria and Burkina Faso demonstrate escalating violence in sub-Saharan Africa. Please pray for all affected.

Four recent attacks demonstrate the escalating violence in sub-Saharan Africa

DRC: At least 17 killed in church bombing

Believers were gathered as normal for their Sunday service on 15 January in Kasindi-Lubirigha, North Kivu province, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). During the service, an explosive device was detonated – at least 17 people were killed, and around 20 others were seriously injured.

So-called Islamic State (IS) have claimed responsibility for the bomb attack, according to a report from Reuters, and the military have reported that a Kenyan national has been arrested in connection with the attack. In the aftermath of the attack, Congolese military spokesperson Antony Mualushayi blamed the Allied Democratic Forces (also known as ADF; this rebel group is affiliated with IS).

“Despite the security measures put in place, the first indications show that it is the ADF which is behind this bomb attack,” said Mualushayi. “It is clear that this is a terrorist act perpetrated by the ADF terrorists who have suffered casualties in several battlefields by the armed forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo.”

The ADF, which first began as rebel group in Uganda, has been based in the DRC since the late 1990s. The group pledged allegiance to IS in mid-2019. The ADF is suspected of widespread attack on villages in north-eastern DRC, targeting Christian villages, clinics and pastors. Many areas have been emptied of Christians as a result.

It is horrendous that people who had gathered to worship the Lord were targeted in this way, though sadly, not surprising Dorcas Moussi, Open Doors spokesperson

"Open Doors condemns this attack in the strongest terms possible and express our deepest sympathies to those affected," says Dorcas Moussi (name changed), an Open Doors spokesperson for Central Africa. "It is horrendous that people who had gathered to worship the Lord were targeted in this way, though sadly, not surprising. For years now the jihadist violence against the mostly Christian population in North Kivu and its surrounding areas in DRC's east have been on the rise, killing thousands and leaving hundreds of thousands trapped in cycles of displacement.

"We call on the government to do all in its power to protect people's freedom to gather and to worship and to ensure that the affected receive relief and rehabilitation. We call on the international community to do all in its power to offer all appropriate support to the government to ensure that there is no repeat of such incidents. We also call on the global church to pray for God's comfort to the bereaved and His provision to His Church in these circumstances." 

Nigeria: Church leader murdered and worshippers kidnapped

In two separate Islamic militant attacks in Nigeria, a pastor has been brutally killed while, at another church, a number of worshippers have been kidnapped.

On 15 January, suspected members of Islamic militant group Boko Haram attacked a church in Paikoro, northern Nigeria. They set fire to the parish building – a priest, Isaac Achi, was trapped inside and died in the fire. Another priest, Collins Omeh, managed to escape but was shot, and is being treated in hospital.

Father Achi was the first indigenous Catholic priest from Gbagyi/Koro land when he was ordained in 1995. This was not the first time he and his congregations had been victims of attack. At previous parishes, he was the priest of a church bombed by Boko Haram militants on Christmas Day in 2011, an attack in which 44 people died. He also sustained a gunshot wound to his jaw when he went to bless a child during a naming ceremony in 2012 and, the following year, was kidnapped by Boko Haram and rescued by police. Despite the violent persecution he experienced, Father Achi continued to faithfully serve God and Nigerian believers.

Meanwhile, suspected Fulani militants attacked New Life for All Church in Katsina State, also in Nigeria. “The bandits came to the church riding on nine motorcycles and surrounded the church,” a source (who wished to remain anonymous) told Vanguard. “Then they started forcing the members out of the church but the pastor tried to prevent them. So, they beat him up and broke his leg before disappearing with the six married women and two single ladies from the church premises.” Other reports have suggested that an even larger number of women may have been kidnapped.

Burkina Faso: More than 50 women abducted by suspected jihadists

Suspected jihadists have abducted more than 50 women in two incidents in northern Burkina Faso. According to the Guardian, attackers first seized around 40 women on Thursday 12 January. “The women got together to go and gather leaves and wild fruits in the bush because there is nothing left to eat,” one resident told media. “On Thursday evening, when they didn’t come back, we thought that their carts had had a problem,” another resident said. “But three survivors came back to tell us what happened.”

Then, on Friday 13 January, about 20 further women were abducted from another town in the region. “In both groups, some women managed to escape and returned to the village on foot,” the local resident added. “We believe that the kidnappers took them to their bases.”

Local officials confirmed the abductions but said the army and its civilian auxiliaries have carried out unsuccessful sweeps of the area. Both attacks took place in the Sahel region of northern Burkina Faso, an area under blockade by jihadist groups and with limited food supplies. The town and surrounding areas are regularly beset by jihadist attacks that often target civilians. It’s not yet known if the attacks were religiously motivated – but it is an indication of the vulnerability and risks faced by Christians in the area.

Please pray
  • For God’s loving care and healing on all those mourning their loved ones, and those who are scared about future attacks
  • For the swift return of all who have been abducted, and speedy recovery for Father Collins
  • That the tide of violence in sub-Saharan Africa would be halted and reversed, and for peace to come to the region.
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