A Catholic priest, Father Etienne Sengiyumvam, 38, has been assassinated shortly after a Sunday mass in Masisi,North Kivu, in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC.
Father Gonzague Nzabanita, head of the Goma Diocese said,Father Etienne Sengiyumva was killed Sunday by the Mai Mai Nyatura (militia) in Kyahemba, where he had just celebrated a mass including a baptism and a wedding.”
Bishop Théophile Kaboy Ruboneka of Goma, in North Kivu Province said, “After celebrating the Mass at Kyahemba, a district in his parish, around 3pm, Fr. Étienne was meeting with his parish staff, when an armed man, accompanied by others, entered the meeting room and shot the priest point blank in the head, killing him instantly, ” the bishop recounted. “The murder happened so quickly that those present couldn’t take note of how many people had entered the room to kill Fr. Étienne,” he lamented.
The bishop also told Fides that ”it’s hard to know who is responsible. Our region is infested with armed groups, at least 15, that fail to be dismantled despite the constant presence of the army and the blue-helmeted UN soldiers.”
Bishop Ruboneka added that “Fr. Étienne is the third priest killed in the region… the investigations to find those responsible for these deaths go nowhere. On our part, we are doing everything we can to identify Fr. Étienne’s killers, even though we have no illusions.” he said.
The killing comes a week after another priest was kidnapped after celebrating Easter Sunday Mass but was released last Thursday.
Catholic priests have been harassed and kidnaped in the war-torn country’s 20 year old conflict.
The Catholic Church has organized protests since late 2017 to pressure president Laurent Kabila to relinquish power after his tenure expired. The demonstrations have been met with brutal repression by the government.
Father Célestin Ngango, a parish priest at Saint Paul of Karambi, was kidnapped last week and there is a ransom demand of $500,000 for his release.
Other catholic priests; Jean-Pierre Akilimali and Charles Kipasa, have been abductedsince July 17, 2017 and three others, Assumptionist Fathers Jean-Pierre Ndulani, Edmond Kisughi and Anselme Wasukundi, who disappeared since 19 October 2012, have since not been heard from.
Hassan John is West Africa Editor, GCN and priest of the Anglican Diocese of Jos