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14 Catholics killed in Democratic Republic of Congo after refusing to convert to Islam

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On his second day in the Congolese capital of Kinshasa, Feb. 1, 2023, Pope Francis listened to the stories of victims of violence from the Democratic Republic of Congo’s conflict-ridden eastern region. / Credit: Vatican Media

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 30, 2024 / 13:09 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis condemned the recent killing of 14 Catholics in the African Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) who reportedly were killed after they refused to convert to Islam.

The Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano reported that the 14 Catholics, several of them very young, were killed in North Kivu by members of the ISIS-affiliated militia called the “Allied Democratic Forces.”

Diverging from his prepared statements on May 25, the pope said: “I would like to stop and thank God for the testimony of martyrdom that a group of Catholics from Congo, from North Kivu, have given in recent days.”

Francis added that “their throats were slit simply because they were Christians and didn’t want to convert to Islam.”

According to a report by International Christian Concern (ICC), the Allied Democratic Forces also carried out an attack on the Christian village of Ndimo in Ituri state. ICC said that 11 Christians were executed with machetes and rifles on May 13 while several others were kidnapped, and some houses were set on fire.

Butembo-Beni Bishop Melchisedec Paluku condemned the killings and praised the Christians’ resilience, ICC reported.

“The resilience and courage displayed by the villagers in the face of such adversity are a testament to their unwavering spirit and determination to rebuild their lives amidst unimaginable tragedy,” Paluku said.

The bishop called on the DRC government to increase its counterterrorism efforts, saying: “The brazen disregard for human life and dignity exhibited by these extremists underscores the urgent need for heightened security measures and robust counterterrorism efforts to safeguard innocent civilians from such brutal acts of violence.”

The Butembo-Beni Diocese has been facing rising Islamist terrorism for several years. Following a bombing of Emmanuel-Butsili Catholic Church in Beni in 2021, CNA reported Paluku saying that “a large-scale project is underway to Islamize or expel the Indigenous populations” of the region.

“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,” he said, adding that “not a day goes by without people being killed.”


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