Pope Francis leads condemnation of crackdown and violence in Congo


Members of the Catholic congregation and government forces have been clashing in the state of Congo, prompting Pope Francis to speak out against the Congo government.

The call for peace from the Pope came after at least six people were killed in the latest of what has become a string of violent clashes between civilian protesters and government-backed forces.

One particular clash that made global headlines is the attack at St. Michael's Church in central Kinshasa, the capital of Congo. One witness said that as they were praying soldiers and police entered the church compound and fired teargas.

Another witness said that people fell and first-aiders responded to fallen old women but the mass continued as usual.

In an address at St. Peter's Square, Pope Francis reminded everyone of the need to avoid any form of violence.

"Unfortunately, worrying news continues to arrive from the Democratic Republic of Congo," the Pope explained.

"I, therefore, renew my appeal that everyone make all efforts to avoid any form of violence. From its side, the Church wants nothing other than to contribute to peace and to the common good of society."

Catholic charity CAFOD explained what is happening in Congo:

"The current stalemate over elections, coupled with the economic downturn has angered people, who have gone on demonstrations across the country," the group reported.

"The Catholic Church has asked their faithful to come out in peaceful protests; and they have been joined by many other Christian denominations, and Muslims."

Bernard Kateta Balibuno, CAFOD's country representative, said that it might be too late if an international response is not forthcoming.

"The Church played a crucial role as mediator in negotiations that led to a December 31, 2016 agreement that DR Congo President Joseph Kabila will step down following elections to be held. The agreement brought the country back from the brink of renewed civil war," Bernard said.

"However, the honoring of this agreement has not prevailed; and today we fear that a powder keg, greater than at any other time in DR Congo, is about to ignite a resurgence of fear, anger, and insecurity, as the people face an uncertain 2018.

"The Church is doing all that it can, but if the international community doesn't react quickly, it will be too late." he continued.

In a related report, Pope Francis has announced that the first Friday of Lent would become a day of prayer and fasting for peace. This special day would be offered for the many on-going conflicts around the world, including the conflict in Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan.

The first Friday of Lent is February 23 and the invitation is extended to all the faithful in different parts of the world.

In an appeal for prayer, Pope Francis said that the Heavenly Father always listens to his children who cry out in pain and anguish. The Pope was alluding to the current streak of violence against peoples, but most especially Christians around the world who have been experiencing persecution because of their faith and beliefs.

He asks people to think: what can we do to make peace?

According to Pope Francis, while prayer can do a lot to help resolve conflicts, people are equipped to do more to actively stop the violence and conflicts. Each person, he says, can refuse violence, as victories that are accomplished through violence are false while those that are hard won through peaceful means will be for the good of all.