Two thousand years ago, King Herod sent his soldiers into Bethlehem to kill every male child two years old or younger, thinking that the dragnet would surely include the young Jesus. But Jesus and his family had already left town. The killing of the children has become knows as the "slaughter of the innocents."
|Der Kindermord zu Bethlehem (The Slaughter of the Innocents) |
Original lithograph, 1960, by Otto Dix
The situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is not so clear, however. There have been anti-government insurgencies there with varying degrees of intensity for about 20 years. Presently, more than 15 different armed groups operate in the Beni region and even more in nearby Lupero. Attacks and abductions for ransom have intensified all around with many hundreds per year. These groups include but are not only Muslim gangs. Some are simply outlaw bandits. For example,
KINSHASA, 10 December 2014 (IRIN) - The murders of more than 250 men, women and children in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) Beni Territory in recent weeks have widely been blamed on an insurgency of Ugandan origin known as the Alliance of Democratic Forces-NALU (ADF-NALU). But several armed groups and racketeering gangs are active in the area and the culprits of these killings have not been incontrovertibly identified.Who is the Alliance of Democratic Forces? GlobalSecurity.org explains:
The Alliance of Democratic Forces (ADF) is made up of Ugandan opposition forces, supported by the Government of Sudan, which fought the Government of Uganda. The ADF was formed in the late 1990s. According to the UN, most of its members are Islamists who want to establish Sharia law in Uganda. This Ugandan Muslim rebel group has conducted limited activities in Uganda and DR Congo. The Allied Democratic Forces, originally a Ugandan based insurgency, now operates in eastern DRC and is listed as a terrorist organization.
|Democratic Republic of the Congo. |
The Beni Territory is on the DRC's east, bordering Uganda.
Fortunately for Beni, the ADF is not very large, estimated to include no more than about 1,500 combatants. The ADF claims it is growing daily, however, and it is apparently very efficiently organized and managed. The great majority of Muslims in Congo and Uganda are not politicized and are not easily attracted to Islamist groups. (Interestingly, the ADF's leader, Jamil Mukulu, is a Christian convert to Islam. He has been under UN sanctions since 2011.)
ADF Leader Jamil Mukulu addresses some fighters and children. The Allied Democratic Forces rebels indoctrinate children as young as 3 years, before they become terrorists.
On the other hand, there is widespread disaffection among the population in and around Beni, who believe, on the whole, that they have been neglected and shortchanged by the central government in Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Flush with new, foreign cash, the ADF has been literally buying the people's loyalty with simple but valuable gifts such as new bicycles.
Congo's government has not mounted effective actions against the ADF but, rather, just a series of individual firefights with no apparent organizing principle or strategy. A Western journalist noted that government forces, "will come in, handle fighting, declare their victory and go home. At this point the rebels move back in again... and the villagers are punished as a whole,"
All of which is to say that there is no good omen for this part of Bishop Gabriel's episcopal area. To respond to his plea, Bishop McAlilly writes,
If you wish to offer any financial assistance for the current crisis he describes, please send to your conference treasurer for “Bishop Unda SOS.”
I am sending a donation and I hope you will, too.