Two months ago, an Anglican priest was killed in Eringeti village by members of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), an Islamic rebel group that targets Christians in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda. The Rev. Ven. Batsemire Ngulongo Yesse was killed alongside 35 other Christians living in four villages in the West district of Beni. The father of eight was slain when he refused to convert to Islam. International Christian Concern (ICC) met with his family at the border in Bwera district, Uganda.
“We were in our house at the church on January 29, when we heard people walking inside the compound. My husband opened the door and we found that they were a group of men, armed with machetes. They ordered my husband to sit down. We went inside and hid under the bed, but we could hear what they were saying to him. The people introduced themselves as Muslims. They asked the Reverend why he was still pastoring the church and what religion he belonged to. He said we were Anglicans. They told him to convert to Islam if he wanted to live. He declined. Right there, they slew his neck and left. He died on the spot,” said Kapitula Francoise Mbambu, the widow of Rev. Ven. Batsemire Ngulongo Yesse.
His son, Paluku Ngalyananzighu, narrated the horrific incident that took the life of his father. This was not their first chilling moment with the rebels. He said, “In April 2017, my two elder brothers were kidnapped from the farm and until now they have never returned home. They were taken to the mountains and we do not know if they were killed or are still alive. From that time our father used to encourage us to continue serving the local church instead of leaving as many pastors left the region.”
He continued, “Now this time, they came at night and knocked at the door. My father opened the door. They asked him why he had defiled their order of leaving Christianity and becoming a Muslim. He replied that he was raised in a Christian family, became a Christian and baptized in an Anglican church and he cannot convert to another religion. The Islamists threatened to kill him. He said that it is only God who knows the time of his death and if it is time for him to die then he is ready to die a Christian. Then they slaughtered him. I was in another house and I heard all that they were doing. When they had killed my father they left.”
The church in Congo has been experiencing continued attacks on Christians for over a decade. Many have been killed and cars and vehicles belonging to believers burnt. In November 2019 the ADF group killed the pastor of a Baptist church in Mayimoya. The Christians there have been living in fear since them. In other instances, the attackers would meet people on the way and separate Christians from Muslims and kill them.
Reverend Wilson Kasereka, the Busongora Archdeacon in the Diocese of North Kivu, who accompanied the family of the slain priest, said, “The war against Christians has been escalating and people are dying daily in the territories of Beni, Mbau, Eringeti, Mayi-moya, Kokola and other towns. We have lost several pastors that have been serving Christians in Congo and we live in fear because we do not know when the ADF will come for us. We have many refugees here at the border of Congo and Uganda because there is some peace. We have many Christians who have taken shelter in our diocese. The Anglican of Congo is not strong enough to support all these Christians. These Christian refugees need a lot of prayers and support.”
The ADF is an Islamic rebel group that originated in Uganda in the 1980s and settled in the Rwenzori Mountains that sit along the border of Uganda and Congo. They have been killing, raping, and kidnapping Christians for more than two decades. The Anglican Church leaders in Congo and Western Uganda have been asking their governments to help in keeping the rebels at bay. The bishop of Uganda’s South Rwenzori Diocese, Jackson Thembo Nzere-Bende urged the government “to protect the rights of Christians in Congo and Western Uganda and flush out the rebels who have made it difficult to worship God freely.”