By Mark Michael

The Ven. Ngulongo Year Batsemire, archdeacon of the Anglican Diocese of Kivu-Nord, was killed on January 29 after refusing his attackers’ demand that he convert to Islam, according to a press release from the Barnabas Fund, an anti-persecution advocacy group. The sixty-year old priest was walking outdoors with his wife near his home in Eringeti, on the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s border with Uganda when they were surrounded by members of the Allied Democratic Force, an Islamic militant group active in the region.

The militants demanded that Batsemire tell them where other pastors could be found, and then demanded that he convert to Islam. After he refused, the father of ten was killed, but his wife was spared.  She reported that the attackers used a local phrase that indicated they were intending to kill Christians but to spare Muslims. Earlier in the same day, ADF forces killed more than thirty people in overnight raids on nearby villages.

The ADF has claimed responsibility for a series of attacks on Christians in the region in recent month, including a raid on an Anglican mission hospital in Boga, a city further south in Kivu-Nord state, last August. That raid resulted in the abduction of 200 women, children, and youth.  In late October, the DRC’s army launched a major offensive against the group, and President Felix Tshisekedi announced in December that the 22,000 troops sent to the region had succeeded in dismantling nearly all ADF bases. However, the Kivu Security Tracker, a research initiative focusing on the region, reports that at least 265 people have been killed by the ADF in the region since November.

One of several rebel groups operating in eastern Congo, the ADF was founded in the 1990s in western Uganda to defend the rights of local members of the neo-fundamentalist Tablighi Jamaat sect. Though largely devoted to banditry, it espouses an Islamist ideology, and claimed that a similar attack last April was the work of “The Central African Province of the Islamic State.”

New York University’s Congo Research Group and the Bridgeway Foundation report that the ADF has received funds from Waleed Ahmed Zein, a major financier of the Islamic State. In December, the US Treasury Department imposed sanctions on the leaders of the ADF “for perpetrating serious human rights abuses including mass rape, torture, and killings.”

Christians are fleeing the area, the Barnabas Fund reports, and many churches have been forced to suspend public worship.