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10/15/2022 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) – A group of NGOs recently wrote to Alejandro Mayokas, who heads the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, asking him to consider granting Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to citizens of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This immigration status allows foreign nationals of designated countries to remain in the U.S. with a work permit.

The TPS mechanism has existed since 1990 and currently applies to foreign nationals with citizenships in Afghanistan, Burma, Cameroon, El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Ukraine, Venezuela, and Yemen based on an assessment of ongoing, unsafe conditions upon return.

Christians in eastern DRC suffer at the hands of extremist terror groups, including the Allied Democratic forces. Though the Congolese government is pushing back against these terrorist groups, insufficient attention is paid to Christian communities, which are targeted for their differing religious beliefs.

ICC has witnessed the violence in the DRC firsthand, in one instance coming across the still-smoking wreckage of a car attacked by terrorists in June of this year. Just days later, at least 10 Christians were killed when an Islamist extremist group ambushed their three vehicles near the village of Makisabo, Beni. The Allied Democratic Forces, an Islamist extremist group, allegedly blocked the road, shot all the passengers, and set the vehicles on fire.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited the DRC earlier this year, landing in Kinshasa in early August.

In a press statement ahead of his visit to DRC, Secretary Blinken’s office said that the meetings during the trip would highlight past, present, and future partnerships between the U.S. and DRC and consider how the two countries can better partner to advance issues like conservation and human rights. Though the press release did not mention religious freedom, in particular, it does repeatedly bring up the issue of human rights and, in particular, rights violations in eastern DRC.

Secretary Blinken has previously expressed his support for international religious freedom, saying at an event in June this year that religious freedom is “a vital foreign policy priority.” Quoting former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, Blinken also said that “those nations are stronger, and the lives of their people richer, when citizens have the freedom to choose, proclaim, and exercise their religious identity.”

Pope Francis canceled a trip to DRC earlier this year, citing his health, but said that DRC suffers from “exploitation, violence, and insecurity, particularly in the east of the country, where armed clashes continue, causing countless and dramatic sufferings, exacerbated by the indifference and self-interests of so many.”

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