In central Africa, a brutal militant Islamic group has entrenched itself in the extreme eastern edges of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Muslim Defense International (MDI) has become embedded in the region and is attempting to purge the area of all Christians to create a stronghold of Islam in the wider Lakes region. Mado*, a young Congolese woman, spent harrowing 15 months as a captive of Muslim extremists In this war torn region.
The MDI has frequently attacked the mostly Christian population in these parts of DRC for many years, and kidnapping and murder are all too common occurrences. Although their successes ebb and flow, the group continues to display troubling strength and have established a firm foothold in which they can prepare to wage jihad into the Lakes Region, the heart of Africa.
The MDI is an alliance of Muslim forces formerly associated with the notorious Ugandan dictator Idi Amin. When Amin converted to Islam, he attracted all kinds of Muslim groups to the area, including those with an ambition to Islamize the region. The MDI actively opposed both former Ugandan President Milton Obote and current President Yoweri Museveni.
No one knows how many fighters the group has amassed, but despite the capture of their leader in April 2015, MDI continues to demonstrate strength and resilience, according to a United Nations report. They operate from the Ruwenzori Mountains in the DRC, just north of the Ugandan border.
Mado recently shared the story of her captivity among the MDI militants with Open Doors.
The ordeal began on a Sunday in February 2013, when a pregnant Mado, in the company of her husband, one of her two young sons and Mado’s brother-in-law, returned from her small farm with some produce Her younger son had stayed behind in the village with relatives.
Along the way, the group met two men, who asked for help with their luggage. Mado did not suspect any danger from the unarmed strangers, unaware that their armed accomplices from the MDI were hiding in the bush. The MDI men ambushed the group from the bush, capturing Mado and the rest of her group. They tied their hands and marched them deep into the jungle.
“Suddenly, they just killed my brother-in-law right in front of my eyes,” Mado said. “I cried uncontrollably. One of the gunmen got angry with me and hit me with the flat side of a machete and then blindfolded me.”
“A short while later, I heard my husband scream. One of them removed my blindfold and showed me a machete with blood on it. He said they had ‘freed’ my husband and threatened to do the same to me if I continued crying. When he handed me my husband’s ID card and clothes, I knew he was dead,” she said.
When the group reached the rebel hideout, called Medina, Mado saw numerous other captured men, women and children. The place was more of an established village than a camp. Some of the prisoners were blindfolded and tied to trees.
“They put me with 11 others in a deep hole about thirteen feet deep. It was terrible there, and we had no idea how long they would keep us in the hole. There was no escape. One girl that tried to escape was killed,” Mado said.
“We ended up staying in the pit for about four months. Afterwards, I joined the others as slaves. We built houses, carried firewood and pounded rice. They gave us food, but we didn’t know where it came from. Two months after I was taken out of the hole, I gave birth to my baby, but he did not live long.
“Out of fear, we did whatever they told us to do. All of us in the camp were told to become Muslims or die. Two months after my baby died, I was renamed Asma and given to an elderly Muslim man as a wife.
“Girls who tried to escape were always killed, but almost one and a half years after I first arrived in Medina, I saw my chance to escape.
At the time, we had gone eight days without eating anything proper. We pleaded with our captors to let us go into the forest to look for mushrooms. They gave permission. While there, we heard government troops advancing on Medina again. When we heard their gunfire very close by, we took the opportunity and ran in different directions. A few of us, including my son, ran straight for the river because the rebels always told us to avoid the river. We came across a camp of government troops, who helped us and eventually transferred us to Beni. Shortly after that, I was reunited with my family.”
Mado shared that she has faced subtle ostracism within her village following the ordeal. “People are apprehensive. Some question how it is that we could free ourselves and not the others,” she said. “Some people even say that they let us go because we have links with the MDI. Some people, even now, do not see us in a good light.”
*Not her real name
Source: World Watch Monitor
Father, we pray You continue to embrace Mado and her son in Your arms of mercy and comfort. Heal them, body and soul, from this ordeal and grant them faith and courage from Your Word and from Your presence in them to meet the challenges of each new day. Soften the hearts of neighbors in the village to fully welcome them back into community life. Thank You for Your clear hand of protection and guidance in their escape from captivity. Use that memory to strengthen and encourage them through the difficult days ahead. And we pray that You will bring Your Word to the insurgents in miraculous ways that they might turn from their violence into the light of Christ and saving faith. In the Name of Jesus our Savior, merciful in His love and powerful in the rescue of His children, Amen.