DRC: Nun burnt to death in Islamist attack

With image of the late Sister Marie-Sylvie Kavuke Vakatsuraki and the burnt-out hospital where she died. © ACN
With image of the late Sister Marie-Sylvie Kavuke Vakatsuraki and the burnt-out hospital where she died. © ACN

A NUN in the Democratic Republic of Congo has been burnt alive after Islamists set fire to the hospital where she worked as a doctor.

Sister Marie-Sylvie Kavuke Vakatsuraki and an un-named patient died when the blaze broke out at a hospital in Maboya village, near Butembo city in the east of the country in central Africa.

Responsibility for the attack was claimed by Ugandan jihadist group Islamic State – Central African Province, also known as the Allied Democratic Forces.

As soon as Sister Marie-Sylvie realised the hospital was under attack, she reportedly called the local parish so that the priests and religious there could flee.

Speaking to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, which supports persecuted and other suffering Christians, Father Marcelo Oliveira, head of the Comboni Missionaries in the DR Congo, described the “terror” of the night on Wednesday (19th October).

He said: “The ADF rebels attacked the village, and more precisely the hospital. They looted everything they could find, taking medicines, and at the end they set fire to the building.

“A nun, who is also a doctor and was on night duty, was burned alive, along with a patient.”

Father Oliveira said that once the hospital was destroyed, “the rebels continued on their way and set fire to another hospital nearby.”

Besides the two victims, there are many others still unaccounted for and who were forced by the jihadists to carry the looted goods, taken from hospitals, pharmacies and shops.

In a statement to ACN, Bishop Melchizedec Sikuli Paluku of Butembo-Bemi condemned the attack, saying: “There are no words, such is the horror that it surpasses all tolerable limits.”

Father Oliveira said the attack was the latest act in a “hidden” and “silent” war, which the media are not reporting.

He said: “The people are afraid, everybody tries to escape. This is a hidden war, silent – or silenced – so that nobody does anything and the population continues to suffer.”

The priest said a key factor in the country’s many armed attacks and tribal conflicts is the struggle for minerals such as gold, diamonds, cobalt and coltan, a key component in the IT, computer and smartphone industries.   

Pope Francis was due to travel to DR Congo as part of a visit to Africa in July 2022 but just weeks before had to postpone owing to knee problems.