News Democratic Republic of Congo | 30 May 2023

'They are killing God's people'—following Jesus in the DRC


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At age 33, Pastor Jean* (pictured above) has seen and lived through more tragedy in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) than most of us will see in our lifetime. 
He vividly remembers the night of June 30, 2021, in his village in North Kivu province: “It was at about 5 or 6 p.m. when they got into the area. But they just observed how people were going about, they did not attack right then. At about 9 p.m., having eaten, we prayed, the children fell asleep, and we accompanied them to bed. At around 11 p.m., we heard the first gunshot. It was right behind us, and I told my wife that we were being attacked by the enemy.” 
The “enemy” Pastor Jean refers to was the rebel terrorist group, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF),  which continues to target and attack vulnerable communities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo where Christians make up 91.5% of the population. And the terror he faced is just a small piece of what many Christians in the DRC face every day.  

Strings of violent attacks 

Since 2014, the ADF’s brutal attacks in eastern DRC have only grown in frequency and severity. And over the last 13 months, the group has carried out a string of attacks that have killed at least 370 civilians and abducted hundreds, including a significant number of children. 
The ADF’s attacks are targeted and horrifically violent, often described as “inhumane.” Only a few days ago, a two-day attack on villages in the Beni territory of the North Kivu province killed at least eight Christians. In the early afternoon on Friday, May 12, ADF militants surprised commuters coming from the town of Kasindi-Lubiriha, killing three Christians. They burned cars and other vehicles in broad daylight. 
From there, the militants moved on to Katongo village where they killed three believers on Saturday, May 13, said Pastor Bunvikane from the 8e CEPAC Church. The following afternoon, the ADF set fire to a vehicle, once again near Kasindi-Lubiriha, trapping the driver and his passenger in the flames. 
“The ADF is killing God’s people,” Pastor Bunvikane told our Open Doors partner, noting that the driver in the fire was a church member who had attended worship service that day. The recent violence has plunged Christians into fear and suspended all movement along the road from Kasindi to Beni where the killings happened. 
Only two months before In March, another series of ADF attacks in North Kivu province claimed the lives of at least 69 Christians as militants killed seven believers working on their farms. The following day, the group attacked Mukondi village, murdering 40 Christians, including 15 children. The latest attack on March 11 killed 22 believers in Kirindera village as the extremists also burned down a health clinic and hospital. 
And while the ADF is one of 120-plus armed groups that have terrorized the DRC’s eastern provinces for nearly 30 years, the ADF represents the only one with explicitly religious objectives. 

Who are the ADF?

Founded in 1995 in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Allied Democratic Forces is a rebel terrorist group with Ugandan and Islamic roots. The group was formed to fight and overthrow the Ugandan government through an agreement between portions of Uganda’s Tabliq Islamic sect and the National Army for the Liberation of Uganda (NALU), a group that sought to violently establish strict Islamic rule in Uganda. 

Since 1995, the ADF has been supported by various parties to fight for various objectives, including several governments in the DRC who tried to disrupt the Ugandan and Rwandan military presence in the country. But a report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies notes that following the 2015 arrest and extradition of ADF leader Jamil Mukulu, the group aligned with the so-called Islamic State group (the Islamic State group publicly recognized ADF as an affiliate in late 2018). The allegiance with the Islamic State group has launched increased and focused efforts to kill non-Muslim civilians. 

Speaking shortly after the ADF’s March 2023 attack on Kirindera, Reverend Gabriel*, a local minister, confirmed the church in eastern DRC is an ADF target: “It is true, Christians are suffering,” he said. 

“Christians have moved to areas deemed secure, and the Church, the Body of Christ, is in danger. Where Christians go, suffering continues.” 
Efforts to curtail or eradicate ADF presence and impact have been mostly ineffective. Their violent insurgency shows no real signs of weakening or stopping. The Center for Strategic and International Studies’ report noted that the ADF’s “proven adaptability and resiliency likely signify a continued and potentially increasing threat to civilians, security forces and UN peacekeepers. Additionally, an overemphasis on the ADF’s links to the Islamic State [group] could prompt security responses that intensify the ongoing conflict in eastern DRC.” 

A resilient church

While you might expect the church in the eastern region of the DRC to be in retreat, with few churches taking the risk to gather, that’s not the case. Our local partners continue to send us stories and videos of how churches and individual Christians in this area continue to follow Jesus, displaying courageous resilience and deep faith.
Only a week after an attack killed 20 people from their congregation, the CEPAC Church in Kasindi came back together to sing, dance and praise God. Watch their worship below: [Add Kasindi video here] 
And after the recent string of attacks in May, Christians in 8e CEPAC Church again gathered for morning worship: “Today we thank the Lord, who is full of grace and never sleeps,” Pastor Bunvikane shared with our local partner only a week after the violence. “Because at this moment, we see Christians returning to their activities by participating in morning worship and fellowship to listen to the Word of God.” 
Today, Pastor Jean stands steadfast, also an example of courageous resilience. Despite the past terror he has experienced, he continues to follow his call to preach. He is now in a safer area. While he and his wife still struggle with fear, Pastor Jean fights to cling to his faith and the Word of God. 
“I strive to make [fear] end in me because if it persists, I would not be able to serve my God anymore,” he shares. “The Bible tells us not to be afraid because God is with us. And that is my consolation, and I often say it in church that even if we are persecuted our tears will be wiped. The tears of known suffering will be wiped away. 
“Like our brothers who died by the sword, thrown into the fire, into the lion’s den … They stood firm in faith in Christ. And we will persevere in the faith because they were like us. That is why I have hope that one day everything will be finished, and we will see Christ.” 
The relentless attacks in the DRC reflect more broadly the situation in sub-Saharan Africa today, where violence against believers has hit new heights as jihadists seek to make fully Islamic caliphates. That’s why Open Doors is launching a four-year campaign to mobilize and unite the global Church to stand with their brothers and sisters in Nigeria, DRC and across sub-Saharan Africa. Our brothers and sisters are resilient and courageous, growing the church amidst the violence—and it’s our vision to equip them to continue to stand for Jesus, no matter what.  Please continue to pray with us. 

Pray with the church in the DRC

  • Pray that God's Spirit will comfort the families and communities affected by these senseless attacks.  
  • Pray for good medical care for those who are injured. Pray also for those who are emotionally and spiritually weakened as a result of these attacks. 
  • Pray for divine wisdom and protection for church leaders as they minister to their congregations when they may also be struggling with trauma. 
  • Pray for the safety of Christians in the DRC, especially business owners and farmers who travel isolated and unprotected roads every day.  
  • Pray for those in captivity. Pray for favor with their captors and that not a hair on their head would be harmed. 
  • Please continue to pray for peace and security in eastern DRC. Pray that the church will be an instrument of peace in God’s hands and that through this crisis, they will faithfully live out the Great Commission. 
  • Pray for the ADF and the many other militia groups. Pray they will turn from their wicked ways and submit their lives to Christ.  
  • Pray that God’s comfort and peace will engulf all those who are injured and grieving. 
  • Pray for wisdom, resources and strength for government and security forces as they seek to protect citizens and attempt to address the growing insecurity. 
  • Pray that DRC Christians will cling to Jesus and seek our His Word in these huge challenges. 



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