Journey through DR Congo and South Sudan: Pope calls for end to violence

As of: 01/31/2023 8:57 p.m

For six days, Pope Francis wants to campaign for peace in the DR Congo and in South Sudan. Upon his arrival, he called for an end to the violence and exploitation. People have high hopes for his visit.

Hundreds of thousands of people cheered Pope Francis in Kinshasa. The capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is the first stop on his six-day tour of the country and South Sudan. Congo’s President Félix Tshisekedi received the head of the Catholic Church with military honors in the presidential palace.

There Francis spoke out for peace and an end to the bloody conflicts in the country and in many areas of Africa. One cannot get used to the decades of bloodshed, he told Congolese government officials and diplomats. “Violence and hatred must no longer have a place in anyone’s heart or on their lips, because they are misanthropic and anti-Christian feelings that paralyze development and lead us back to a dark past.”

“Hands off Africa!”

He demanded that foreign powers stop exploiting the country. After political colonialism, an equally enslaving economic colonialism was unleashed, the pontiff said:

Hands off the Democratic Republic of the Congo, hands off Africa! Stop choking Africa: it is not a mine to be exploited, nor land to be plundered. May Africa herself be the protagonist of his destiny!

The trip, which the Pope describes as a “pilgrimage of peace,” was supposed to take place last summer. However, it was postponed due to health problems. It is the first papal visit to the Central African country in 37 years. Above all, the struggle for raw materials and rival military groups have displaced up to 5.5 million people within the country, more than in any other country in Africa.

Difficult security situation

Because of the very fragile security situation, the Pope remains in the Congo in the capital, Kinshasa. There, the security measures were massively increased during the visit: the police and army exchanged views with Vatican security forces and even the American FBI in advance. On Wednesday, Francis wants to hold a public mass at the N’Dolo military airport, to which up to two million believers from all over the country could travel. Half of the approximately 105 million inhabitants of Congo belong to the Catholic Church – the country on the equator thus has the most Catholics in Africa.

An originally planned visit to Goma in eastern Congo was cancelled. Dozens of armed militias are active there. Violence has recently escalated, with rebels repeatedly carrying out bloody attacks.

Following his visit to Congo, the 86-year-old plans to travel to South Sudan. Fighting there has hampered implementation of a 2018 peace deal meant to end a civil war. In the world’s youngest country, Francis will be joined by Archbishop of Canterbury in England Justin Welby and a representative of the Church of Scotland Iain Greenshields. The three church representatives want to demonstrate a united Christian commitment to South Sudan.

Francis wants to mediate

On his journey, Francis also wants to meet displaced people. Refugees are a big concern for the Argentine. The morning before departure, the Pope met people in Rome who had fled Congo and South Sudan. As Francis flew over the Sahara on the way, he asked for a prayer for those who “crossed the desert in search of some prosperity and freedom” and “didn’t make it”.

Many people hope that the Pope’s visit can help concretely improve the situation in the countries. He had already achieved this in South Sudan: in 2019 he invited the president and vice-president, who are rivals, to the Vatican and urged an end to the fighting. After that, the enemy politicians worked together.

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