Protesters Arrested, Residents Afraid to Work


By Judith Yanga, United Methodist News Service
Aug. 31, 2016 | BENI, Democratic Republic of Congo 

United Methodists in Beni report that bodies believed to be victims of the Aug. 13 massacre are still being found. Meanwhile, a protest march against terrorism turned violent, with a civilian and a police officer killed. Authorities arrested and detained 148 protesters for 48 hours.

Since 2014, the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, specifically the town of Beni, has been the site of several massacres, with 1,200 to 1,500 estimated killed. While officials say 56 people were killed in the latest massacre, United Methodists in the area have reported that more than 102 people were killed and several injured, including the district superintendent in Beni. The latest attack has been blamed on the rebel Allied Democratic Forces, a group linked to Islamists in Uganda.

The district superintendent, whose name is being withheld for his own safety, reports that in addition to bodies still being found, there have been reports of bodies floating in the Semliki River.

The day after the protests, a person suspected of being involved in the Allied Democratic Forces terrorist group was burned to death.

The district superintendent said the church condemns such acts of revenge.

The lay leader of the United Methodist Church of Jerusalem in Beni said several United Methodist families have survivors of the massacre living in their homes, which is straining the water supply and raising concerns about the spread of disease.

People are worried about malnutrition, since they are afraid to go into the fields to tend crops. He said parents also are afraid to send their children to school.

The church leaders asked for continued prayers for the residents of Beni.