Aftermath of the explosion inside Emmanuel-Butsili Parish in Beni, DRC on June 27, 2021./ Sylvin Muronga/ACI Africa
An explosion inside a Catholic church in the Democratic Republic of Congo has left at least two people “seriously injured,” according to the parish priest.
The early morning explosion on June 27 at Emmanuel-Butsili Parish in the town of Beni was caused by a homemade bomb that had been placed in the first row after the altar.
Fr. Isidore Kambale Masingo, the rector of the parish, told ACI Africa on the day of the attack that the “explosion inside the church occurred before the start of Sunday Mass.”
“The explosion took place around 6 a.m. when Holy Mass had not yet started. Two mothers were seriously injured and have been rushed to the hospital,” he said.
The Congolese priest said that the women had “arrived at the scene early in the morning to arrange the church for Sunday worship.”
“The homemade bomb was placed where the choir set up their instruments, the first row after the altar,” he said.
Msgr. Laurent Sondirya, the vicar general of the diocese of Butemb-Beni, told local media that he believes the attackers were “targeting a large crowd” because a Confirmation Mass was scheduled to take place that day.
“They were targeting a large crowd because the ceremony would bring together children, their parents and the faithful,” Sondirya said.
The area in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo where the explosion occurred has experienced attacks from the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), an ISIS affiliated rebel group from neighboring Uganda.
There were three bomb attacks in the city of Beni over the weekend, according to AFP.
After the explosion at the Catholic church, a suicide bombing occurred outside of a bar. Another bomb exploded at a gas station on the outskirts of the city on June 26.
Last month, Bishop Melchisedec Sikuli Paluku of Butembo-Beni denounced the human rights violations and terror attacks that targeted Christians in his diocese.
Bishop Paluku said that the number of terror attacks seemed “particularly high in the northern part of our diocese.”
“Armed groups are destroying schools and hospitals. Teachers and pupils are being killed. They are even killing the sick as they lie in their hospital beds. Not a day goes by without people being killed,” the bishop said in a report published by Aid to the Church in Need in May.
Bishop Paluku appealed for support for victims of terrorist attacks. “We need centers where people can go for therapy. Many people are traumatized,” he said.
The bishop said that “a large-scale project is underway to Islamize or expel the indigenous populations.”
“Anyone who has been kidnapped by these terrorist groups and managed to escape from them alive has told the same story. They were given the choice between death and converting to Islam,” he said.
A version of this story was first published by ACI Africa, CNA’s partner news agency in Africa. It has been adapted by CNA.