A scene of destruction in Butembo-Beni diocese on 24 March 2021, following an attack by suspected ADF/NALU forces.
Photo courtesy of Aid to the Church in Need
Islamic insurgents in the Democratic Republic of Congo are engaged in “relentless” violence. A bishop from a hard-hit diocese in the country has given a leading Catholic aid agency an account of schools and hospitals destroyed, children killed, and sick people murdered in their beds.
Bishop Paluku Sekuli Melchisédech of Butembo-Beni told Aid to the Church in Need the number of incidents has been particularly high in the northern part of his diocese. He mentioned. “Armed groups are destroying schools and hospitals,” he said. “Teachers and pupils are being killed.”
“They are even killing the sick as they lie in their hospital beds,” Bishop Melchisédech reported. “Not a day goes by without people being killed.” He also said the effects of the conflict have taken a serious toll on the psychological health of survivors.
“We need centres where people can go for therapy,” Bishop Melchisédech told ACN. “Many people are traumatised. Many have watched as their parents were killed. There are many orphans and widows. Villages have been burned to the ground. We are in a state of utter misery.”
“The people cry because they have reason to,” he added, “but they carry a seed of hope within them. They have a natural resilience that is strengthened by evangelisation.”
Bishop Melchisédech spoke of the government’s weakness and inability to respond to the crisis, suggesting this was owing in part to high-level corruption. “The state as such does not exist,” he said. “The reach of the government does not extend into the east, be it out of weakness or complicity.”
There is a growing threat of Islamisation, against which Bishop Melchisédech said the Church’s principal efforts are focused through faith formation. “Islam is being forced on us,” said. “Mosques are being built everywhere, even though no one needs them,” he added. “The [mosques] do not look like the traditional ones we are familiar with,” he also told ACN. “Anyone who has been kidnapped by these terrorist groups and managed to escape from them alive has told the same story. They were given the choice between death and converting to Islam.”
The eastern reaches of the Democratic Republic of Congo contain vast natural resources. Violent incursions have been occurring for years. Soldiers belonging to the militant Allied Democratic Forces have been responsible for much of the more recent violence. In June 2019, ADF leader Musa Baluku pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.
“What kind of relationship should we have with this form of Islam,” Bishop Melchisédech wondered, “which is not only a religion, but also a political movement linked with terrorism?”
Having been unable to sell in churches for well over a year due to the pandemic, we are now inviting readers to support the Herald by investing in our future. We have been a bold and influential voice in the church since 1888, standing up for traditional Catholic culture and values.
Please join us on our 130 year mission by supporting us. We are raising £250,000 to safeguard the Herald as a world-leading voice in Catholic journalism and teaching. For more information from our chairman on contributing to the Herald Patron's Fund, click here
Make a Donation
Donors giving £500 or more will automatically become sponsor patrons of the Herald. This includes two complimentary print/digital gift subscriptions, invitations to Patron events, pilgrimages and dinners, and 6 gift subscriptions sent to priests, seminaries, Catholic schools, religious care homes and prison and university chaplaincies. Click here for more information on becoming a Patron Sponsor. Click here for more information about contributing to the Herald Patron's Fund