After new massacres in North-Kivu, Mgr Sikuli Paluku, Bishop of Butembo-Beni, in a message sent to ACN, denounces the atrocities committed by the ADF since the beginning of June 2024. The bishop insists that there cannot be a separation between faith and the defence of human dignity.

Following massacres by the rebel group known as the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) in the Baswagha-Madiwe group of villages in the East of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which have cost the lives of some 150 people since the beginning of June, Mgr Melchisédech Sikuli Paluku, the Bishop of the Diocese of Butembo-Beni in North-Kivu, published a “message of denunciation, compassion and proclamation” on Tuesday 18 June 2024.

In this message, which was sent to the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), the bishop denounces the killings “of a peaceful population, left without defence and without security”, the abduction of persons “without a single trace of any of them” and the rape of girls and women. He also reports that the ADF has burned houses, medical structures, businesses and vehicles across the whole region. Because of this dangerous situation, the survivors have fled the region towards safer areas. 

A region prey to rebel militias for decades

The bishop vehemently calls on authorities “to end the Calvary of the Congolese people in general, and the population of the Diocese of Butembo-Beni in particular, a Calvary which has lasted too long in this martyred region” and expresses his compassion, as well as his closeness and communion with all the people undergoing these difficulties.

Rich in natural resources, this region of eastern DRC has been prey to violent incursions by rebel militias for decades. In recent years, Mgr Sikuli Pakulu has spoken many times to ACN about this dire situation.

Since the 1990s, the ADF has been involved in military operations and massacres in the Beni region of North-Kivu, where many militant groups are active. The rebel group originates from Uganda and since 2017, it has been believed to have been affiliated with the Islamic State, the only group in the region to have done so, although the exact nature of these links is difficult to determine. 

According to various media, the Islamic State in an online message from states that one of the attacks in June, in North-Kivu, was aimed at Christians.

Sister Marie-Sylvie Kavuke Vakatsuraki, from the Congregation of Petites Soeurs del la Presentation de Notre Dame au Temple, in Butembo, was one of the victims of the attack by armed men, belonging to a rebel group that calls itself the ADF, Allied Democratic Forces, to the hospital where she was working in the village of Maboya, in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
In the attack, during the night of Wednesday, October 19, and which lasted into the early hours of the next day, another hospital unit in the area was destroyed, with the loss of at least seven people. The sister, a doctor, died of charring.

“Life will conquer death”

“In the name of the infinite dignity of each human person, created in the image and likeness of God,” Mgr Sikuli Paluku denounces “for the umpteenth time this indescribable drama”. The bishop considers it his duty to denounce these grave violations of human dignity because “you cannot separate faith from the defence of human dignity, evangelisation from the promotion of a dignified life and spirituality from commitment to the dignity of all human beings”.

At the same time, he delivers a message of hope according to which “with the mobilisation of all Congolese, good will triumph over evil, life will conquer death and truth will end up destroying lies”.

On Sunday 16 June, during the Angelus prayer, Pope Francis likewise condemned the massacres and reiterated his appeal to the country’s authorities and the international community to do “everything possible to stop the violence and safeguard the lives of civilians”,  insisting that among the recent victims of the ADF there were “Christians killed in odium fidei,” martyrs whose sacrifice “is a seed which germinates and bears fruit and teaches us to bear witness to the Gospel with courage and consistency”.