KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of Congo, February 1, 2023/ — Pope Francis is in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, for a four-day visit as a “pilgrim of reconciliation and peace”, seeking to bring comfort and hope to a bruised population.
Speaking to an audience of political, religious and civil leaders, Felix Tshisekedi, President of DRC, expanded on the three principal challenges facing the DRC today: fighting terrorist attacks designed to fragment the country; economic development to create a more equitable society, and protecting the environment and DRC’s rich biodiversity.
Conflict and insecurity created by “armed groups and foreign powers greedy for the minerals in DRC’s earth with the direct and cowardly support of our neighbouring country, Rwanda” is the first and greatest challenge for the government, said the President.
The international community is “complicit” in the conflict, continued President Tshisekedi, because of its “inaction and silence”.
Over the last thirty years, “more than 10 million people have already been atrociously killed. Innocent women, even pregnant ones, are raped and disembowelled. Young people and children have had their throats slit, families, old people and children have been condemned to defy fatigue and exhaustion to wander from their homes in search of peace because of the abuses committed by these terrorists in the service of foreign interests.”
Echoing the President’s words, Pope Francis declared that the DRC was under “continual repetition of violent attacks” which the international community has “almost resigned itself” to.
Condemning the “forgotten genocide” which is taking place in the East of the country, Pope Francis said, “We need to know what is going on here, that the peace processes which I fully encourage, are supported by actions, and commitments are kept.”.
The DRC is an “immense country full of life” yet continues to be “tormented by war” suffering conflict and forced migration within its borders” and from “terrible forms of exploitation, unworthy of man and creation”.
He warned against those who seek to “keep the country in violence in order to exploit it and do shameful business”, which only leads to “death and misery”. DRC battles, said the Pope, to retain its territorial integrity against attempts to break up the country.
Pope Francis said it was “tragic” that the African continent still suffers from various forms of exploitation. “Economic colonialism has followed political colonialism”.
DRC has been “amply plundered” and has not been able to profit enough from its immense resources.
“Get your hands off the Democratic Republic of Congo, get your hands off Africa! Stop choking Africa: it is not a mine to be exploited or a land to be devalued. Let Africa be the protagonist of its own destiny”, he continued, adding that DRC and Africa deserves to be “respected and listened to”, become more valued internationally, and “have more weight and representation amongst nations”.
The President applauded the Catholic Church for its long-standing work to provide education and health services in DRC. Although the DRC is constitutionally a secular state, the President said that the lives of Congolese people remain deeply linked to religious convictions, and the lives of families are based largely on religious values, hospitality being a core trait.
Approximately 45 million, or fifty-two per cent of the population of DRC is Catholic. Pope Francis continues his visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo today, Wednesday, with the celebration of the Holy Mass at Ndola airport, where up to one million Congolese are expected to attend.
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