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Congo illustrates the new look of Christian martyrdom

Anti-Christian persecution can be a straightforward result of explicitly religious motives, such as Islamic State militants who beheaded 21 Coptic Christians from Egypt in Libya in February 2015, or assassins professing loyalty to ISIS who slit the throat of French Father Jacques Hamel in July 2016.

At times, however, Christians fall prey to complex political, military and cultural movements that may have little to do specifically with religion. New developments in the Democratic Republic of Congo offer a good illustration of the point.

This week, a group of 25 Catholic seminarians was evacuated by helicopter by UN peace-keeping forces from a seminary in Malole in Kananga, located in the Kasai-Central province of the country in the south, near the border with Angola. The evacuation followed an armed assault on their seminary in late February.

That assault was led by troops loyal to the late Kamwina Nsapu, a tribal leader who was killed by the Congolese military in August 2016. The evacuated seminarians were taken to Mbuji-Mayi, a city of at least 1.5 million which serves as the capital of the nearby Kasai-Oriental province.

The seminarians had been blocked from taking a road that leads to Mbuji-Mayi because it was under the control of Nsapu forces, and thus had to be rescued by air.

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