Date:  February 23, 2024


DRC (International Christian Concern) — The United Nations Security Council has sanctioned the leaders of five armed rebel groups, according to a statement made Tuesday by Ambassador Robert Wood, the deputy permanent representative of the United States to the UN. The list of those sanctioned includes two leaders of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a notorious terrorist group guilty of continued violence against civilians, including vulnerable Christian communities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Africa.

On the same day as the UN announcement was made, local authorities and civil society leaders announced that the ADF had conducted attacks in the eastern Ituri and North Kivu provinces, killing at least 24 civilians including women and children. Though an estimated 120 armed groups are vying for power and land in DRC, ADF is among the most powerful, even advancing on Goma, the capital of North Kivu and the province’s largest city.

“The scale of displacement, human rights abuses, gender-based violence, and suffering is appalling,” said Ambassador Wood speaking to his colleagues about the new sanctions.

He also criticized Congolese government forces for their support of the FDLR, an armed ethnic group fighting in the region. “The United States has been consistent in denouncing the collaboration between elements of the Congolese armed forces and UN- and U.S.-sanctioned armed actors, including the FDLR.”

The government of nearby Rwanda supports M23, another violent terrorist group causing death and violence in the region. It was also found to have used surface-to-air missiles to fire on air assets of the UN’s peacekeeping mission to DRC. “The fact that Rwanda, a major troop contributor to UN peacekeeping, would take such hostile action against a UN mission is deeply unsettling,” said Ambassador Wood, calling it “cause for serious evaluation by the international community.”

Ongoing violence in DRC has displaced 6.9 million civilians, including 2.3 million in North Kivu and 1.6 million in Ituri, according to a 2023 UN report.

Christians in northern and eastern DRC are particularly vulnerable to extremist terror groups. Though the Congolese government is pushing back against some groups, insufficient attention is paid to Christian communities, which are targeted for their differing religious beliefs.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited the DRC in 2022, highlighting its importance for regional stability. In a press statement ahead of his visit, Secretary Blinken’s office said that the meetings during the trip would highlight past, present, and future partnerships between the U.S. and DRC and consider how the two countries can better partner to advance issues like conservation and human rights. Though the press release did not mention religious freedom, it did repeatedly bring up the issue of rights violations in eastern DRC.

Shortly before his trip, in June 2022, Secretary Blinken expressed his support for international religious freedom, saying at an event that religious freedom is “a vital foreign policy priority.” Quoting former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, Blinken said that “those nations are stronger, and the lives of their people richer, when citizens have the freedom to choose, proclaim, and exercise their religious identity.”

HOW TO PRAY: Pray for protection for Christians across the DRC. Pray for an end to ADF-led violence. Pray for government sanctions to be effective in addressing this violence.