Helped by supporters like you, Gertrude from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is rebuilding her family’s livelihood following an unspeakable tragedy at the hands of Islamic extremists.
It’s a conversation that Gertrude* has replayed countless times in her head. Her husband had called to say that he would meet them at their farm. “The road is not good, do not come,” she told him. “But he insisted.”
Looking back, Gertrude wishes that her husband had listened to her, or that she had tried harder to stop him. If so, she wonders if her husband would still be alive.
“If it is death, I have no fear in my heart”
To make a living, Gertrude’s husband would often spend time in Beni, a city in North Kivu Province, where he sold produce from their farm, whilst Gertrude and their children stayed at their home in a nearby village.
After the phone conversation, Gertrude’s husband met the family at the farm and the day unfolded as it typically did – including the distant sound of gunfire, which would not stop the family from their work. “My husband said ‘Man dies one day, and he is also born in a day; if it is death, I have no fear in my heart’,” recalls Gertrude.
But as the day drew to a close, armed men from the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) – a militant group known for targeting Christians – attacked the farm. Gertrude’s husband tried to protect her and their son.
“When he fell, he blocked the boy,” she says. “I crawled into the bush, hoping to climb the mountain but they shot my foot. I slipped. I tried to climb again and got another bullet in my foot.” Going up a hill, Gertrude was shot again and she fell to the ground.
“From where I was, I could see them take my boy and behead my husband,” she remembers. “When I saw them behead him, I told myself we were all dead. I lost the remaining strength I had. When they killed him, I felt dead too. It is as though I had lost my mind. I did not know where I was or where I was going. My first thought was the children. How would I provide for them?”
The comfort and glory of God
Gertrude fled to safety where she was picked up by government soldiers, who took her to the farm where just a few hours previously she was happily working with her family. There was no trace of her son – he had been kidnapped.
“Since my husband died, I no longer go to the farm,” says Gertrude, who is responsible for six of her sister’s children (she was killed by the ADF in 2017) as well as her own four children. “My foot hurts if I walk too much. The children’s schooling has stopped because I can no longer pay school fees.”
Gertrude needed to find another way to make a living – and that’s where you came in. Through Open Doors local partners, she has been given the finance to start a small shop. “I thank God for how He has provided through brothers and sisters,” she says. “Please pray that this will glorify Him.”
“I have hope that God is present”GERTRUDE
This passion to honour God reflects how faith has brought solace amidst unspeakable grief. “I have hope that God is present,” she says. “I had many questions, but as He is good, I just consoled myself. I told myself we all are sojourners on this earth. It is God alone who gives me the strength to be able to bear this pain.”
The family has also been upheld by the support of a local church. “When I feel bad, I call them for this or that, they help me in prayer, and they also encourage me to pray, and it helps me to not grow tired,” she says.
Acute threat of ADF requires urgent prayer
Helped by you, Gertrude is persevering, but she continues to need your prayers, particularly given the ever-present threat of ADF militants; attacks by the group in eastern DRC have increased in frequency and severity since 2014.
“When I hear of attacks near to me, I am startled,” she says. “Sometimes I relocate to another area for a few weeks, then I follow closely and if calm returns, I go back to my place. At one point, I couldn’t even sleep. When I hear that people have been killed somewhere, all the details of the attack come rushing back to me. I can’t understand how these people just continue killing.
“Pray that God will protect us as a family,” she says.
The impact you’re having on Gertrude’s life is one of many similar stories across sub-Saharan Africa. Your support is aiding Open Doors local partners across the region as they seek to come alongside our brothers and sisters who are experiencing unimaginable pain because of rising violent attacks by Islamic extremists. This faithful and generous help – including emergency relief, trauma care and livelihood support – is meeting so many varied and urgent needs. Thank you.
*Name changed for security reasons
Sarah is a young Christian from a Muslim background in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Her parents stopped paying her university fees after learning about her decision to follow Jesus Christ, but thanks to your prayers and gifts, she was able to complete her education and now wants to serve and strengthen other believers from Muslim backgrounds.
Sarah (24) became a Christian in 2014 after a teacher at her school shared the gospel. She was baptised in 2017 at the church where she serves on the worship team. All this time, Sarah enjoyed relative safety and freedom to live out her faith.
But that changed in 2018 when her parents moved to the city where she was studying agriculture. When they learnt of her conversion, they told her she had brought shame on their family. Sarah began to face threats and abuse as her family hoped to force her back to Islam. However, the more they pressured her, the more her faith in Christ grew. Finally, her parents stopped paying her university school fees.
Although the majority of the DRC is Christian, believers there still face intense pressure and persecution – largely from the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a violent Islamic extremist group. Believers from Muslim backgrounds, like Sarah, also risk discrimination, abuse and even forced marriage for their decision to follow Jesus.
Sarah has plans to strengthen believers through farming projects
Sarah’s church saw how deeply committed Sarah was to Jesus and reached out to Open Doors for support to help her continue her education. “I am currently an agronomist (crop scientist) – I just finished my studies last year in 2022,” Sarah says. “God gave His grace through the brothers and sisters by my side and I overcame that difficult time. It was not easy for me; I came out by the grace of God.”
Thanks to your continued prayers and support, Sarah was able to complete her education and she is determined to help other believers from a Muslim background through a farming project. “I would say that I have achieved my dream of becoming a person who is contributing to my community and wider society,” she says. “I want to support other converts so that they too can make an impact and contribute in a meaningful way.
“To the brothers and sisters who have supported me, and helped me, I pray that this love you have shown me is not limited only to me because there are many people who go through the same situation as I did.”
Sarah hopes that her family will eventually choose to follow Jesus, too. “My daily prayer is to see that one day my parents come to know Christ like I did. I know that man does not have the capacity to change man – it is God’s work to change us, which is why my prayer is that one day my parents accept Jesus Christ.”
In another shocking series of assaults, Islamic militants have killed at least eight Christians in eastern DRC.
Last week, over the course of three days, Islamic militants murdered at least eight Christians in vulnerable communities in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) – an Islamic extremist group with links to so-called Islamic State – are responsible for another devastating series of attacks. Violent persecution continues to rise in the region, and assaults like this are shocking but sadly not surprising.
A series of violent attacks
The ADF began attacking villages in the Beni territory, North Kivu province, on Friday 12 May. Commuters from Kasindi-Lubiriha were travelling over a bridge when they were intercepted by ADF militants. They murdered three Christians and torched cars and motorcycles. Locals say that it was early afternoon, in broad daylight.
“The ADF is killing God’s people.”PASTOR BUNVIKANE
The following day, militants also killed three Christians in Katongo village – an incident confirmed by Pastor Bunvikane, a local Open Doors contact who leads the 8e CEPAC church.
And on Sunday 14 May, around 2pm, there was a third brutal attack in the same region. ADF militants set fire to a vehicle transporting fish. The driver and passenger were trapped in the car. The driver was 36-year-old Paluku Luc, who attended Pastor Bunvikane’s church. He leaves behind a wife and three children.
“Brother Luc was at the service on Sunday, before embarking on the Kasindi-Beni Road,” Pastor Bunvikane told an Open Doors local partner. “The ADF is killing God’s people.”
Gathering to worship in the face of fear
Understandably, the local Christian communities were left deeply afraid by these latest attacks. Open Doors local partners have shared how all local travel was suspended, since the roads were so dangerous. But on Tuesday 16 May, some Christians gathered together for morning worship.
“Today we thank the Lord, who is full of grace and never sleeps, because, at this moment, we see Christians returning to their activities by participating in morning worship and fellowship and listening to the Word of God”, Pastor Bunvikane shares.
Commitment to send ‘restore peace and solidarity’
Several local media and social media platforms have reported on the incident, but no action has yet been taken by local military forces. Earlier this month, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) committed to send troops to the Democratic Republic of Congo to help fight insecurity in eastern DRC.
Namibian President Hage Geingob, who chairs the section of the SADC leading on politics, security and defence, told media at the end of a special SADC meeting in Namibia’s capital Windhoek: “The summit reiterated SADC’s solidarity to assist the government and people of the Democratic Republic of Congo in its efforts to restore peace and stability in the eastern part of the country, particularly in light of the upcoming national elections scheduled for December 2023.”
Please keep praying
Local Christians welcome this commitment to help ensure peace and stability, but also know that prayer is the most vital response to this continuing trend of violence. Please join our brothers and sisters in DRC in praying for God to intervene and end these assaults. Thank you for standing up to violent persecution with your gifts and prayers.
When Pastor Jean’s church was attacked by ADF militants, he and his family suffered emotional and psychological trauma. Pastor Jean felt he had to hide it from the congregation – but thanks to your prayers and support, he and his family are beginning to heal.
When Pastor Jean was transferred to his new church, he was full of hope. He arrived at Beni – a city in the north east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) – to lead a church of almost 280 people.
There were challenges, of course. For five years, the area had suffered from attacks by an Islamic extremist rebel group, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), but he believed God would protect him. “We told ourselves that God will help us.” It was an exciting time and he had big plans.
Then the ADF arrived.
Gunmen attack Pastor Jean’s house
“At around 11p.m. we heard the first gunshot,” Pastor Jean recalls. “It was right behind us, and I told my wife that we were being attacked.”
It was a terrifying ordeal. From their house in the church compound, they could hear screams and incessant gunfire as the attackers made their way through the village. Then Pastor Jean heard the militants right outside his door. It was clear that they intended to kidnap him. “They started arguing amongst themselves to know whether I was inside or not,” he recalls. “We prayed… ‘God help us.’”
Although around 95% of the population of the DRC are Christian, in the eastern areas, Islamic extremist groups like the ADF openly target Christian homes and churches.
The attackers tried the door but failed to break in. On the other side, Pastor Jean heard them discuss their plans. Then he heard them step back. There was the sound of a rocket grenade being launched, an explosion and then everything went black.
“We lost consciousness for about 45 minutes,” he remembers. “Lying there like we were already dead.” When dawn came, Pastor Jean went outside to find that fifteen people had been killed, six from his church. Houses and shops had been destroyed and at least 20 people – mainly young girls – were missing.
Hiding the trauma – and healing from it
“Even if we are persecuted, our tears will be wiped. That is why I have hope.”PASTOR JEAN
Mercifully, Pastor Jean and his family had no wounds. But the emotional and psychological pain ran deep. “We were traumatised,” he says. “Our health was destroyed.” He tried to be strong: “If I showed my congregants that I was traumatised it would be difficult to help them because they would be disappointed,” he said. But it was too hard. He could no longer preach.
“Even at the funerals, I could not participate because I myself needed help. I had to call on another helper because I had no strength.”
Healing from trauma takes a long time. But, with the right help and support, restoration is possible. Pastor Jean and his family have been helped to relocate to a safer area, where, little by little, God is restoring them. Open Doors partners have provided money to help them start a small business, and he draws strength from knowing that others are praying for him and has been able to start leading a congregation again. And, crucially, he has found some of that hope which he thought he’d lost.
“The Bible tells us not to be afraid because God is with us,” he says. “That is my consolation, and I often say it in church: even if we are persecuted, our tears will be wiped. That is why I have hope. One day everything will be finished, and we will see Christ.”
Your prayers are urgently needed following the brutal and tragic killings of at least 69 Christians in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
At least 69 Christians have been killed in three separate attacks on villages in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). People have also been kidnapped and others injured, and several buildings burnt to the ground.
In the first attack, on Wednesday 7 March, seven Christians were killed whilst working on their farms in Muvulya village. The following day, at least 40 believers were killed in the village of Mukondi, with the victims including 15 children. In the latest attack, last Saturday (11 March), 22 Christians were killed in Kirindera village. A health clinic and hospital were also burnt down.
The attacks have been attributed to the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a militant group with links to so-called Islamic State (IS). Following the second attack, IS issued a statement claiming responsibility for it.
The death toll could increase and it’s not yet known how many people have been kidnapped and wounded in the attacks, all of which took place in North Kivu province where the ADF are particularly active.
“The church is in danger. Let us pray”
The ADF is driven by an Islamic expansionist agenda and purposely targets Christians. M23 rebels – whose motives are more political – are also prominent in the area. According to the UN, ongoing insecurity in eastern DRC has displaced 300,000 from their homes in February alone.
“Where Christians go, suffering continues”REVEREND GABRIEL
“The news you received from Kirindera is true; Christians are suffering,” says Reverend Gabriel*, a local minister speaking of the third attack. “Christians have moved to areas deemed secure and the church, the body of Christ, is in danger, and where Christians go, suffering continues. The news you have received is true, the church is in danger. Let us pray.”
The DRC rose three places to number 37 in the latest World Watch List, in large part due to the rampant violence bringing increasing devastation to Christians. This reflects more broadly the situation in sub-Saharan Africa, where violence against believers has hit new heights as jihadists seek to make Africa the first Islamic continent. Please continue to pray into this deeply troubling situation.
*Name changed for security reasons
Violence is continuing to displace Christians in the Democratic Republic of Congo – but believers have not been forgotten. Thanks to your prayers and generosity, displaced Christians in Komanda have received food and other relief aid.
Suzana is from a village in the Ituri Province in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). It’s a beautiful part of the country. But she, along with hundreds of others, have been driven from their homes by the Islamic militant Allied Democratic Forces (ADF).
By killing men, kidnapping women and driving these mostly Christian people from their land, the attackers are seeking to carve out a caliphate where they can live life according to Sharia (Islamic law) and take the riches the land has to offer. Their sphere of influence now covers swathes of territory in North Kivu Province, as well as the Ituri Province to the north where Suzana’s home village is located.
During the summer last year, members of ADF killed at least 17 Christians in nearby areas, including one pastor and two elders. The pastor, Joel Tibasima Bamaraki of the Anglican church, in his 30s, was married and a father of one. They also destroyed at least two church buildings.
A welcoming village – but few resources
Many Christians – including Suzana – have fled to Komanda, a village on the northeast border of DRC opposite Uganda. The population in Komanda has almost doubled as people have fled surrounding villages and sought refuge there. But it’s not much of a haven. There aren’t enough resources to go around – not enough food or shelter for the ever-growing number of internally displaced people.
“It is the war that brought me here. When we arrived here, the pastor received us,” Suzana explains.
Most of these displaced Christians spend their nights in the local church or school. They sleep on thin reed mats on the cold floor. Early in the morning, they pack up their things and spend the day outside so that village children can attend school, and programmes can continue to run in the church.
Pastor Paul, whose congregation has been caring for Suzana and the other displaced Christians in Komanda, told Open Doors, “It’s clear that they suffer enormously. They sleep rough and spend their days outside, even when it rains.”
Pastor Paul’s church has been very generous, but their resources are limited. “We have no support apart from the contributions of other Christians, so when we see that these displaced Christians do not have stability, we are overwhelmed,” he says.
Over 300 families receive aid, thanks to you
But thanks to your prayers and support, Open Doors partners have been able to help 310 Christian families in Komanda, which is about 1,500 people. Each family received 25kg of rice, 20kg of beans, 0.5kg salt and two bars of soap which would last them a few months. “The displaced people are really filled with joy. Even we, the church, are very happy and we thank God for this organisation for having thought of them,” Paul says.
Suzana is one of the believers who was supported with this aid. “I received rice, two bars of soap, two sachets of salt and beans. I say thank you for the work that your organisation has done through the church,” she says.
Desagne, another beneficiary, added, “We pray that God will bless you abundantly. I pray that God will bless you because thanks to you we eat rice and beans.”
Please continue to pray for our persecuted church family in DRC. Pastor Paul says, “We pray that God grants peace in the country, that He grants wisdom to the leaders to see how they can help us. This is our prayer: that the war will stop.”
You might remember Esther from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Last year, her husband was murdered. With support from Open Doors local partners, Esther and her three children are doing well, but they continue to need your prayers.
“I felt deep pain that one cannot bear.” Those were the words Esther shared in the wake of the tragic death of her husband, Pastor Isaac, in November 2021.
His body was discovered hanging from a tree in North Kivu province in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Local Christians suspect Pastor Isaac, aged 33 at the time, was targeted by Islamic militants because of his efforts to tell his community about Jesus.
Upon hearing of his death, Esther went into labour. She was rushed to hospital and gave birth the next day, when her husband was buried. “I could not be part of the burial, none of it,” she said.
Shortly after the incident, Open Doors local partners visited Esther and her three children, to provide comfort, food, clothing and cash to cover other needs. “I am really happy, especially happy to see that we are in unity in Christ and we will continue to support each other in the faith,” she said at the time.
A new home for the family
The team recently returned to see how the family are doing. Esther is doing well physically, and with the financial support of family and Open Doors, she’s been able to build a small house on her in-laws’ compound. The cash she was given by our partners has also enabled her to start her own business selling food and other household essentials.
“We continue to thank you very much all those who care about us,” Esther said. “In the past, we received goods that helped us a lot and the money has helped us in the construction of the house where we live.”
“I know that with [your] support, I can stand back on my feet”ESTHER
“I need your continued support – the support of my brothers and sisters in the faith – because I know that with their support, I can stand back on my feet and continue to be strong despite the circumstance,” she continued. “I also pray that God will grant me the courage and strength to continue caring for my children, for their education, health, and daily needs.” The three children are aged seven, two, and eight months.
“I strongly need prayers”
Emotionally and spiritually, Esther still needs your prayers as she continues to come to terms with her terrible loss.
“I still go to church, but when I do, I think a lot about my husband, because he was always seated at the pulpit”, she said. “I know I am weak in my spiritual life because I have difficulty reading the Bible, difficulty praying. But despite all the ups and downs of life, there is one passage that always comes back to me and strengthens me. It is the passage from Romans 8:39 which says: ‘Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus’.”
“I strongly need prayers so that God will give me back the strength to continue serving Him; and for the moment there are no threats made against me. My prayer also is that God will strengthen me spiritually and that He will open a path for me to find work where I will not depend on anyone, because people often have evil thoughts to turn us away from the will of God.
“My message to the brothers and sisters, who help us without even knowing us, is that they should press on without getting discouraged. I, my children and my family are so grateful for all that the beloved ones continue to do for us.”
Your prayers and support have also inspired Esther to help others who are going through hard times. “I think that through what you are doing for me, I will also help my brothers and sisters in their difficult time,” she said. “Thank you for the great lesson you have enabled me to learn.”
In the past month, at least 100 people have been killed by an Islamic extremist group in a series of attacks in the east of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). A large number of those killed were Christians.
Attacked with machetes and guns
On 14 January, approximately 46 people were killed in Ituri province by militants who are believed to be part of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF). The community that was attacked belongs to the Pygmy ethnic group – there are about half a million people belonging to this ethnic group in DRC, and they face extensive persecution and discrimination.
On 4 January, an estimated 22 civilians were killed in an overnight raid on the village of Mwenda, in the Beni region of neighbouring North Kivu province. A community leader reported that guns and machetes were used, and that at least 17 nearby villagers had been murdered with machetes a week earlier. Around the same time, the ADF killed another 25 people in the village of Tingwe, in the same region. Unlike the Ituri province attack, most of those killed in these three attacks were Christians.
“These predominantly Christian communities are attacked by an Islamic extremist group with a clear Islamic expansionist agenda,” says Illia Djadi, an Open Doors spokesperson on freedom of religion or belief in sub-Saharan Africa. “It is a reminder of what is happening in other parts of the central Sahel region – groups like Boko Haram in northeast Nigeria, for example. The ideology, the agenda of establishing a ‘caliphate’ in the region, and the way they operate is the same, and we can see how they afflict terrible suffering on innocent people.”
Soaring violence in DRC
DRC has a very high percentage of Christians, at over 95 per cent of the population, but Islamic extremist violence has soared over the past year and continues to worsen. This is the main reason that DRC is at number 40 on the Open Doors World Watch List 2021, up from number 57 the previous year. The violence that Christians face in this country is among the very worst in the world – it’s only the (relatively) low levels of persecution in other spheres of life that mean DRC isn’t even higher on the World Watch List.
“We urgently call on the national government and the international community to do everything they can to protect innocent lives”ILLIA DJADI, OPEN DOORS
The ADF is a militant Islamic group with a clear mission of attacking, kidnapping and killing Christians, as well as training and sending jihadists to other countries in Africa. The group was formed in 1996, merging several existing rebel groups, and initially focused its destructive action on Uganda. More recently, it has expanded into DRC. In October 2019, the army in DRC started an offensive against the group – and, since then, the ADF have scaled up the number and intensity of their attacks.
“A war has been declared against the DRC,” says Carly Nzanzu Kasivita, a governor of North Kivu. He called for a ‘national and international mobilisation’ to combat the ongoing violence. A UN report from 2020 agreed that the situation is dire, suggesting that ‘widespread, systematic and extremely brutal’ human rights abuses by the ADF ‘could constitute, by their nature and scope, crimes against humanity and war crimes’.
A jihadist network
The UN’s Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, adds that the ADF is connected to other jihadist groups across Africa. “In my opinion the ADF today is part of a network that starts in Libya and stretches to the Sahel, to the Lake Chad region, and which is present in Mozambique,” he told RFI. The ADF has not formally linked itself with so-called Islamic State (IS), but IS has started to claim responsibility for some of the attacks by ADF and has called Congo the ‘Central Africa Province’ of the ‘caliphate’.
“We need to pay attention to these events because what is happening in eastern DRC, the killing of innocent civilians on an almost daily basis, is an underreported tragedy,” says Illia Djadi. “We want to raise the alarm and we urgently call on the national government and the international community to do everything they can to protect innocent lives and to restore peace in this troubled region.”