In the eastern regions of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, far from the world media spotlight, Christians are reportedly being brutally slaughtered, kidnapped, brutalized, and chased away amid what local Catholic bishops have described as a “climate of genocide.” The perpetrators: Islamist jihadists and brutal militias that, according to sources ranging from officials and international organizations to watchdog groups, are receiving support from governments, military leaders, and other terror groups. The United Nations, which occupies the Congolese region with its armed and often brutal “peacekeeping” forces, has been standing on the sidelines observing the developments, according to church officials.
The latest wave of violence was reported by World Watch Monitor, a watchdog group that reports on Christians around the world being persecuted or pressured for their their faith. In a report released last month, the group said that state-sponsored Islamist militants were suspected in the killings of between 20 and 40 villagers in eastern DRC. Citing media accounts and its own sources, the organization said the attackers stormed the village and murdered their victims with machetes and axes. Among those murdered were two elders of the Central African Evangelical Community Church (Communauté Evangelique au Centre de l’Afrique, or CECA), and their wives, according to a source cited in the report.
Speaking to French news agency Agence France-Presse, local administrator Bernard Amisi Kalonda confirmed the attack, saying the perpetrators attacked the village in the Beni region of North Kivu province late on May 3. “Between 20:00 and 22:00, the enemy managed to get past army positions and kill peaceful residents in their homes, slashing their throats,” the official told AFP. “The 16 bodies are in front of me, killed by machete or axe.” UN officials also confirmed the attack, with General Jean Baillaud, who heads the UN's 20,000-strong military force known as “MONUSCO” in the war-torn country, saying that at least 17 people had been killed in the attack.
Other sources said even more victims were massacred. And a local Christian missionary, whose name was withheld for security reasons, was quoted as telling World Watch Monitor that “thousands” of people had been forced to flee the area. “It was eerie; hundreds of houses abandoned and thousands of people displaced,” the missionary told the watchdog organization. “I saw four coffins and a funeral or two on the road. I saw people carrying their mattresses and things in cars, on motorcycles, on foot.... Hundreds of homes along the road are abandoned. Where there was thriving community, there is now a ghost town.”
The slaughter appears to have been perpetrated by a terrorist group known as the “Allied Democratic Forces” (ADF), which is also referred to as “Muslim Defense International” (MDI). The shadowy and little-known Islamist organization of mostly Ugandan militants, which has reportedly been in operation for some two decades, has been massacring Christians and others in the North Kivu province for years. The UN and various media attribute hundreds of murders to the group. And despite the lack of media attention, the militant organization is growing stronger. It has also reportedly received support from governments and even a Congolese general.
In a statement published by Catholic news agency Agenzia Fides, local bishops in the DRC's Eastern Bukavu province denounced what they called “the three greatest dangers” to the area: “A climate of genocide, a hearth of jihadist fundamentalism and a process of Balkanization.” According to the bishops, there are “many armed groups” in the region behaving as “predators” and engaging in horrifying crimes against humanity, including the mutilation of children and the disembowelment of pregnant women.
The militants, who are said to be busy recruiting young Congolese by promising them scholarships in the Middle East or Europe, come from various African countries and are operating out of training camps in the area. All the while, the UN Mission in the Congo has been merely observing from above with drones, the bishops said. The Congolese government also came under fire. “We have difficulty understanding the ambiguities, the prevarication and paradoxes of our government,” the bishops noted in their statement.
They called for intervention and government protection to stop the atrocities. “Does the situation have to deteriorate even more before the international community takes measures against jihadism?” the bishops asked in the statement. The church leaders also said there was a “strategy of forced displacement of populations” taking place in the region, aimed at gradually occupying the land, promoting Islamist extremism, and establishing more terrorist training bases. To finance their activities, the bishops said the armed groups were looting everything from minerals and trees to animal resources.
According to the bishops, the local Catholic church has paid a steep price. Among other concerns, the statement denounced the attempted kidnapping of Mgr. Placide Lubamba, Bishop of Kasongo, last year. Other kidnappings of church officials were successful. “We are outraged for the silence regarding the three Assumptionist fathers abducted on October 19, 2012,” the bishops continued, wondering whether the victims were alive or dead. The church leaders concluded their statement by asking the Congolese state and the international community to protect local populations.
Other Christian groups have also spoken out about the atrocities perpetrated by the group. The increased threats have forced Church on the Rock to stop some work in its missions and schools in Eastern Congo, according to a report in Christian Today. “We are heartbroken, questioning our faith, half-terrified, but determined and carrying on,” Church on the Rock founder Mike Anticoli was quoted as saying. “We may be targeted due to the fact that we train local leaders and aspiring missionaries from several churches and denominations.”
While local officials did not initially confirm that the latest slaughter was carried out by the ADF/MDI, the attack fits a pattern. According to the Jamestown Foundation, which said hundreds of people had been massacred by the terror group in a period of a few months, “all these attacks followed similar patterns, with the assailants arriving at night and deliberately slaughtering women and children.” In most of the attacks, it continued, “crude weapons were used, including knives, axes, machetes, hammers, rocks and hoes, as well as some firearms.” The victims were generally blindfolded before being butchered, the organization said, citing media reports.
The terror group apparently got its start with the support of allies of Ugandan dictator and mass-murderer Idi Amin, who converted to Islam, and elements of his ruthless regime, according to various reports. “Historically, ADF–NALU is a product of the union between Islamic fundamentalists hailing from the highly conservative Tablighi Jamaat group and the remnants of the Islamic National Army for the Liberation of Uganda,” the Jamestown Foundation reported. It also said some ex-commanders from Amin's army were involved, along with other Islamist militants from across Africa. The UN Group of Experts described the ADF/MDI as a “Ugandan-led Islamist rebel group.”
A previous article by World Watch Monitor entitled "The War on Christianity in the Congo," published in February, offered more details on the terror group. “Muslim Defense International (MDI) — formerly known as the Alliance of Democratic Forces — has become embedded in the region and is attempting to rid the area of its Christians to create a foothold of Islam in the wider Lakes Region,” the group reported. “The MDI has been repeatedly attacking the mostly Christian population in these parts of DRC for years. Kidnapping and murder are common. Although their successes ebb and flow, they continue to display surprising strength and have found a firm foothold where they can prepare for jihad into the Lakes Region, the heart of Africa.”
The group has also been known to force Christians, who make up some 95 percent of the local population, to convert to Islam, according to WWM. Among the groups and governments linked to ADF/MDI, according to a variety of sources including governments and analysts, is the al-Shabaab terrorist group in Somalia. Local media reports have also highlighted alleged links with Boko Haram, the terror group infamous for slaughtering countless victims across Nigeria, kidnapping and brutalizing young girls, and forcing people to convert to Islam.
Also reportedly involved is Sudan's genocidal tyrant. According to a report downplaying the group's Islamist ideology appearing in Al Jazeera, the media outlet funded and controlled by the Islamic dictatorship of Qatar, the African group “was created in 1996, and one of the original founding factions was a disaffected Ugandan Muslim group supported by Sudan, known as the Tabliqs.” Of course, the Sudanese dictator, Omar al-Bashir, is famous for trying to exterminate Christians and others in Darfur and the Nuba mountains. He is a strong ally of the world's leading communist and Islamist regimes, including the Communist Party dictatorship ruling over mainland China — another leading persecutor of Christians.
As The New American magazine and other sources have documented, the global persecution of Christians has been escalating quickly — especially in the Middle East and Africa, but even in traditional strongholds of Christendom. Also highlighted by this magazine is the role of the UN and the U.S. government's foreign policy in some of that persecution. From Iraq and Syria to Libya and the Ivory Coast, numerous massacres and atrocities aimed at Christians can be linked to the machinations of the internationalist establishment. At the very least, Americans have a duty to ensure that their taxpayer dollars and U.S. “foreign policy” schemes do not contribute to further persecution.
Photo of Congolese refugees: © MONUSCO/Sylvain Liechti