Nun murdered in attack in DR Congo. “The terror continues”, says missionary priest

A terrorist attack in Eastern DR Congo left two people dead and a hospital destroyed in the village of Maboya.

Sister Marie-Sylvie Kavuke Vakatsuraki, of the Little Sisters of the Presentation of Our Lady in the Temple, from Butembo, was one of the victims of an attack that took place last Wednesday, October 19. Responsibility for the attack has been claimed by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a rebel group with Ugandan roots and ties to ISIS.

The terrorists looted a pharmacy and a hospital, which was then set on fire. The religious sister and a patient were burned to death inside the building.

Speaking to Pontifical Charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Father Marcelo Oliveira, head of the Comboni Missionaries in the DR Congo, described the “terror” of that night. “The ADF rebels attacked the village, and more precisely the hospital. They looted everything they could find, taking medicines, and at the end, they set fire to the building. A nun, who was also a doctor and was on night duty, was burned alive, along with a patient.”

As soon as she realised that they were under attack, Sister Marie-Sylvie called the local parish so that the priests and religious could flee. Otherwise, the situation could have been even more tragic.

Sister Marie-Sylvie Kavuke Vakatsuraki

Once the hospital was destroyed, “the rebels continued on their way and set fire to another hospital nearby. All this happened in the village of Maboya, which is about 25 kilometres from the city of Butembo and 30 from the city of Beni,” Fr. Marcelo explained to ACN.

Besides the two victims, there are also many people still unaccounted for. “Several people disappeared, possibly taken to carry the medicines and everything else they looted from the hospitals, a couple of pharmacies, and some shops,” explained the Portuguese priest.

Bishop Melchisedec Sikuli Paluku, in a statement sent to ACN, expresses the deep consternation with which the local diocese of Butembo-Beni received the sad news of this new attack, which it firmly condemns, “deploring the loss of human lives,” namely that of Sister Marie-Sylvie. “There are no words. Such is the horror that it surpasses all tolerable limits,” the bishop writes.

“Everybody tries to escape”

Father Marcelo Oliveira says that the Democratic Republic of the Congo is experiencing a real war that the world pretends to ignore, and that is causing an atmosphere of terror among the population.

The extreme violence is caused by the great wealth in the soil of this African country, which has been literally looted for years. “The terror that took place in this village is the same that happens in so many neighbouring villages, but that is not picked up on by the news. There are a lot of interests at stake, given the riches in this part of the country,” he adds.

The issue of insecurity in the country had already been described by the Comboni priest around the time of Pope Francis’ scheduled visit to the country back in July, this year.

“The issue of lack of security is serious, in cities as well, but especially in the east of the country, with many armed attacks, many tribal conflicts, and all this because of the interests in the minerals,” said the missionary at the time, referring to such riches as gold, diamonds, cobalt, and coltan, which is a key component in the IT, computer and smartphone industries. The Pope’s visit was postponed for health reasons.

In his general audience on October 26, 2022, Pope Francis said, “I strongly deplore the unacceptable assault that has taken place in recent days in Maboya, North Kivu Province, where defenceless people, including a religious woman engaged in health care, were killed. Let us pray for the victims and their families, as well as for the Christian community and the inhabitants of that region who have been exhausted by violence for too long.”

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