VATICAN: Pope Expresses Closeness with Victims of Violence in DRC and Kidnappings in Nigeria

By Paschal Norbert

VATICAN CITY, MARCH1, 2024 (CISA)An estimated 150,000 people half of which are children have been displaced in the escalating violence in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

According to UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, there are reports of bombs falling on civilian locations, including in the Zaina site in Sake and the Lushagala site in Goma, where as many as 65,000 internally displaced people are sheltering, raising significant concerns for their safety.

The agency says the indiscriminate bombing is amplifying the strain on already limited resources to accommodate 800,000 internally displaced individuals in the region, and 2.5 million displaced across North Kivu Province.

Chansa Kapaya, UNHCR Regional Director for Southern Africa and the Regional Coordinator for the DRC refugee situation says “Civilians in eastern DRC are once again bearing the brunt of the escalating conflict.”

“Relentless confrontations near Goma have targeted innocent men, women and children, forcing thousands to flee indiscriminate bombings and violence. The situation is tragic and unacceptable. We urgently call on all parties to protect civilians, respect humanitarian law and establish safe corridors for aid,” notes Kapaya.

This heightened violence in eastern DRC has caught the attention of the Holy Father who in a tweet on X said “I am following with concern the increase in violence in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo. I join the call of the bishops to pray for peace, hoping for an end to the fighting and the search for sincere and constructive dialogue.”

On February 21, Moussa Faki Mahamat, the chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC) called for rapid de-escalation of hostilities and tensions in the region while calling for constructive dialogue between DRC and Rwanda.

He called upon regional leaders “particularly those of DRC and Rwanda, to prioritize dialogue in the framework of the two African mechanisms led by President João Lourenço of Angola and Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, with the goal of agreeing, in a collaborative and fraternal spirit, on a reasonable pathway to settle political differences, whatever their nature.”

Concerning Nigeria, the pope decried the recent spate of kidnappings terming the frequency in which they are happening as ‘extremely concerning’.

Pope Francis said, “I express my closeness in prayer to the Nigerian people, hoping that efforts will be made to contain the spread of these incidents as much as possible.”

According to a special investigative report by the International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law (Intersociety), Nigeria is currently undergoing one of the deadliest genocides in the world.

Intersociety estimates that more than 150,000 people have been massacred in the country since 2009. The genocidal massacres have mainly targeted Christians and are carried out by the Boko Haram and Jihadist Fulani militias.

“Between 2016 and 2023; a period of eight years, more than 30,000 defenceless civilians were abducted by Islamic Jihadists and, some say, ‘Islamic-inspired’ security forces in Nigeria. The abducted over 30,000 were never returned alive to date. In all, Christians accounted for roughly 100,000 of the ‘direct deaths’ and ‘indirect deaths’ of the over 50,000 while moderate Muslims accounted for about 46,000 and members of other religions accounted for the remaining 4,000 defenceless civilian deaths,” the report released on Ash Wednesday, February 14, states.