War on Christians in Democratic Republic of Congo
With the growth of multiple Islamic extremist and rebel groups perpetrating violence, coupled with an ineffective, complicit, and/or corrupt government, Christians in the DRC are suffering from unprecedented persecution - states scholar Linda Burkle to the persecution.org.
Fifteen years ago, thousands attended; the church denomination was one of the largest in the country. While it was reported that the country had been subject to instability due to corruption, clan oppression, and regional conflict, there was no indication that there was widespread persecution of Christians by terrorist groups – states Linda Burkle PhD to the persecution.org.
With the growth of multiple Islamic extremist and rebel groups perpetrating violence, coupled with an ineffective, complicit, and/or corrupt government, Christians in the DRC are suffering from unprecedented persecution. This phenomenon is not limited to the DRC but is occurring in neighboring sub-Saharan African countries as well. Recently, International Christian Concern (ICC) reported that during ten days in April, eighty Christians were killed and hundreds abducted in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The atrocities were perpetrated by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), one of many extremist Islamic groups targeting Christians while seeking to establish Islamic law throughout the region.
While such attacks are not new to the area, they are becoming more frequent and violent. This year Open Doors World Watch List ranked DRC as 37 of the fifty worst countries persecuting Christians. DRC appeared on the WWL for the first time in 2021, when it was ranked number 40. These rising designations reflect a dramatic increase in the persecution occurring in the DRC.
Although ninety-five percent of the population are Christians, their presence is diminishing in regions terrorized by the ADF and over one hundred other armed groups. The ADF is most active in Ituri province and North Kivu in eastern DRC, where Christians are targeted with impunity. Christian villages are raided, churches are burned, and Christians are abducted and brutally killed if they refuse to recant their faith and convert to Islam. Women and girls are raped and forced to marry the perpetrators. Many Christians have fled to safer areas. “Prior to the outbreak of violence, one church denomination had 25 churches in the Beni area; today, they have eight. Another denomination had 54 churches and now have 11. Other denominations report similar patterns.”
The international community has voiced alarm at the widespread violent attacks occurring in eastern DRC. A senior U.N. human rights official, the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Ilze Brands Kehris, traveled to the region in February 2023, visiting camps of internally displaced refugees and meeting with civil and military leaders. However, while she referenced ethnic groups being victimized, she omitted any reference to religious groups such as Islamic extremists or Christians. Kehri observed the “deteriorating security situation in the east of the country, where the Mouvement du 23 mars (M23) and various other armed groups, including the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), the Cooperative for the Development of the Congo (CODECO) and Zaire, continue to engage in brutal attacks against civilians. Documented human rights violations and abuses include mass killings, mutilations, and conflict-related sexual violence, causing massive displacement and enduring trauma.” She concluded, “I strongly condemn these appalling attacks in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and echo the Secretary-General’s call last weekend for ‘action for peace’ in Africa. The violence must stop. I also strongly encourage the authorities to redouble their efforts to counter rising hatred and implement targeted initiatives to promote trust and cohesion within and between communities,” she said.