Over the weekend, residents in Beni, a city in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)’s eastern region, were rocked by explosions throughout the city of 230,000. Some of the incidents were attacks on area churches. City officials have warned of more expected attacks.
The inside of the church where a bomb recently exploded
Two Christian women were injured when a bomb exploded in a church in the 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.
A believer, Atonisha Kambale*, who lives in the neighborhood of the bombed church, told Open Doors what he saw the morning of the church explosion and what the situation is like right now in the city:
“It was very early … I was still in bed. I heard a bomb explosion. I later realized the explosion was in the church. I got there at 7 am … people were really in great anxiety, the mothers and members of the parish were crying, others were talking, pronouncing words of despair.
“I felt really tormented by what I witnessed. We hoped that [martial law] would bring more security. So, when this attack happened, it really upset me. It is really painful. People are depressed and in despair. There is not much movement in town. People have to remain home because we think there are other bombs in places.”
Who are the ADF?
Over the last 26 years, the Islamic rebel group Alliance for Democratic Forces has inflicted chaos in the Congo’s eastern provinces and is responsible for the death and displacement of millions of people. The group has attacked Christian churches and communities and taken an unknown number of hostages.
Historically a Ugandan group, ADF has holed up in the eastern DRC since 1995 and currently controls vast areas of North Kivu and Ituru provinces, using attacks and ambushes to intimidate and drive out Christians.
While an estimated 122 armed groups roam the eastern province of the DRC, ADF is the deadliest of all groups and is known to have an Islamic expansionist agenda aimed at displacing the Christian population. Open Doors local partners in the DRC report the ADF is actively working to uproot the Christian population and expand its own foothold. Their goal is to drive out Christians and supplant them with radical believers of Islam. Those who leave Islam or tribal religions to follow Jesus are often specific targets.
Believers in the Congo are specific targets of the Islamic rebel group ADF. Photo by IMB.ORG
A forgotten crisis
The UN refugee agency UNHCR estimates that in the DRC, an average of 6,000 people per day are leaving their homes due to brutal violence, the burning of their homes and persecution. Open Doors field workers have described the eastern province as a “war zone”—having been warned by the military to turn around and not enter the area.
In an attempt to clamp down on the violence, the national government declared a siege and placed two regions under martial law on May 6, 2021.
While the country’s ongoing violence is often reported, little is said about the socioeconomic impact the attacks have fueled. Widely cited as having “one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises,” the DRC is challenged with food and water shortages, as well as education issues, caused by the ongoing violence.
More than 20 million men, women and children in the DRC currently face food insecurity, with 3.4 million children under age five acutely malnourished. Just finding water is a major difficulty. The violence has also severely disrupted the education system, driving the recruitment of children into armed ranks and jeopardizing the nation’s future.
Significant rise in persecution of Christians
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.
After movement restrictions in Beni are lifted, Open Doors local partners in the DRC are planning to visit believers like Atonisha who are scared and frustrated at the same time. In the region and throughout the DRC, we regularly work with indigenous churches and ministries to support individuals and communities—strengthening the church in the Congo. Please continue to keep this region and its believers in your prayers.
*Name changed for security reasons
- That the enforced martial law will quell the violence and bring peace to the troubled region
- That God will minister His peace to fearful hearts, and pray that the church will be a beacon of hope and peace in the region
- That God will move in the hearts of the militants, that they will turn from their evil ways to Jesus.
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