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07/11/2024 DRC (International Christian Concern) – Children and students alike in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) continue to endure extremist Islamist attacks and militia violence, forcing them to leave school and flee their homes.

According to UNICEF, “in both 2021 and 2022, DRC had the world’s highest levels of verified cases of sexual violence against children committed by armed forces and armed groups [and] … in 2022, 730 children were verified as abducted, making it the highest number of abductions ever verified by the United Nations in the DRC.”

As a result of the ongoing violence, a reported 750,000 children have been forced to leave school and discontinue their education.

In the face of overwhelming hardships, some of these students pursue their education elsewhere and pledge to return to the DRC to help their fellow citizens overcome near-insurmountable odds.

ICC assists Christian learners in continuing their education and is honored to come to the aid of displaced students, like Kahindo, Mary, and Kavira in the DRC.

In 2021, when Kahindo was 19-years old, she and her parents were abducted by the Allied Democratic Forces, ADF, an Islamic terrorist organization with ties to the Islamic State group (ISIS).

According to Kahindo, “the rebels appeared abruptly and pulled us away into the thick forest. They were conversing in Swahili and Arabic, saying that they would kill us for refusing to become Muslim. The rebels separated me from my parents and, for three days, they sexually abused me in turns. They were eight in number.”

Kahindo’s mother managed to flee and went to the authorities for help. When the police returned, a gun battle ensued and Kahindo made a daring escape during the confusion. She made her way to safety and back to her mother, however, her father’s whereabouts remain unknown.

After being resettled with a Christian host family, Kahindo began to focus on her education. She completed secondary school and hopes to become a doctor in the future.

“I desire to study medicine so that I can help young girls and women who get sexually assaulted by the rebels,” Kahindo said. “I am undergoing treatment and counseling, and I would not wish other young girls to go through the same experience I went through. I have received admission at a local university, and I trust that the Lord provides funds for tuition and upkeep.”

ICC paid the tuition and living expenses for Kahindo’s first year of medical school and will continue to track her progress.

Like Kahindo, Mary was also abducted by the ADF in 2021. She was 17 years old at the time of her abduction and recounted her harrowing story to ICC.

“They abused my mother and me for three days successively,” Mary said. “They told us to deny Jesus and become Muslims. My mother and I, we were about to die. With wounds and fatigue, we were crying and weeping. With weakness in our bodies, we couldn’t walk with them in the forest.

“They decided to shoot us, but their chief said to tie us to different trees. They left us tied up in trees in the forest. Without food or water to drink, we faced the fear of the forest animals, which could devour us. By the grace of God, my mother was able to untie herself, and then she untied me. We couldn’t walk easily because of the pain from the gunshot wounds. We spent two days until we reached a refugee camp.”

Like Kahindo, Mary desires to give back to others who have endured similar traumas at the hands of the ADF by becoming a medical professional.

Through our Generation Transformation program, ICC has paid two years of Mary’s complete tuition expenses and intends to fully fund the rest of her educational career.

Kahindo and Mary’s stories aren’t uncommon in the DRC. The situation in the central African nation is rapidly deteriorating.

The United Nations General Assembly Security Council released its “Children and Armed Conflict” report in June 2023. Findings in the report state that from January to December 2022, “the United Nations verified 3,377 grave violations against 2,420 children … including abductions … sexual violence … killing and maiming … [and] attacks against schools and hospitals.”

Despite Christians being the religious majority in the DRC, they are routinely attacked and murdered by the Islamic ADF and other terrorist groups.

The State Department has placed several DRC provinces, including North Kivu, Ituri, the Eastern DRC Region, and several Kasai provinces, on their ‘do not travel’ list due to “violent crime, such as murder, rape, kidnapping, and pillaging.”

The perils endured by Christians living in the DRC was captured in the words of local church leader Mulinde Esemo in an ICC report from 2023.

“We are living in a very tense situation here in Eastern DRC, both in towns and in the villages,” Esemo said. “Scores of believers have been killed in cold blood by the ADF rebels. It is a massacre like one killing animals.”

Even children who are not abducted by ADF rebels are still victim to the volatile circumstances in the country. Kavira’s parents were unable to raise the necessary funds to send her to college to pursue her medical degree.

Hearing of her desire to care for those in her country, ICC paid for her medical schooling through our Generation Transformation program.

“Studying has always been a challenge for me due to my financial constraints and the fate of being affected by ADF rebels, but thanks to your support, I can pursue my education without worrying about the burden of unpaid fees,” Kavira said.

Although danger and life-threatening situations abound in the DRC, the perseverance of survivors like Kahindo, Mary, and Kavira shows immense courage and compassion to help others who are enduring a dark tunnel of persecution and violence.

“I am expressing my genuine gratitude and sincere thanks to ICC for sponsoring my studies,” Mary said. “It was a miracle for me because I couldn’t be as I am according to my background. I have chosen medicine to make a real difference in people’s lives by helping to alleviate pain and suffering as I have experienced. May God be with you members of ICC and bless you forever and forever.”

Like Mary, Kavira told ICC, “The love and care that you have shown me through your continuous support have has touched by heart deeply. It is a privilege for me to have the opportunity to study without any hindrances. Completing my education and eventually becoming a doctor will not only fulfill my personal aspirations, but will also benefit society as a whole by adding another skilled healthcare professional to the workforce.”

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