Churches in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are being desecrated and Christian nuns terrorized by "violent thugs," says Roman Catholic Cardinal Monsengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa, following a wave of increased hostility against believers.
Pasinya told Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need that there was an arson attack last week on the Malole major seminary and violent thugs have "sown terror among the Carmelite Sisters" in nearby Kananga.
He warned that a "resurgence of fear, anger and insecurity" is spreading among the population as a number of Catholic churches are being targeted. In another attack last week on the parish church of St. Dominic in the Limete, a gang "overturned the tabernacle, ransacked the altar, smashed some of the benches and attempted to set fire to the church."
"The material damage is considerable," the archbishop said.
Pasinya shared his belief that the Church is "being targeted deliberately, in order to sabotage her mission of peace and reconciliation," when it comes to bringing the country back from the brink of civil war.
Islamic extremism has been a significant source of Christian persecution in the Congo, with the militant Allied Democratic Force Islamic terror group killing eight people last December.
Persecution watchdog group Open Doors USA noted that the same group left another 30 people dead just weeks earlier.
"It was around 6 p.m. There were many of them. Some of them had guns, others machetes. They pushed me around for a while before someone forced me into the bush. Two of them slashed me with their machetes," one of the victims of the attack in the town of Beni said in December.
"After the second blow, I laid still like a corpse. They watched me bleed for what seemed like forever and then left, thinking I was dead. Afterwards, they went to a nearby house and set it on fire before taking off."
Allied Democratic Force members have reportedly killed well over 700 people in various attacks since 2014, with Christians suspecting that the militant group wants to uproot the Christian population from the region and take control of the East Africa Lakes area.
Pope Francis spoke out against the violence in August 2016, after at least 36 Christians were hacked to death by the jihadist group in the North Kivu region.
"My thoughts go to the people of North Kivu, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, who have been recently hit with fresh massacres, which have for some time been perpetrated in shameful silence, without attracting even as much as our attention," Francis said at the time.
"Unfortunately, they are part of the too many innocent people who have no weight on world opinion."
Cardinal Pasinya said in his latest remarks that the country's politicians must better protection innocent victims.
"It is now down to the men of politics to acknowledge with humility, both before the nation and before the international community, their political weakness and the turpitude of their selfish choices that have led to a political impasse and the paralysis of the institutions," he added.