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Boy woving a mat

Student of the United Methodist graduate theological school makes woven mats in the Congolese village of Wembo Nyama.

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The 86-year-old pontiff arrived in the Congolese capital Kinshasa on 31 January, marking the start of a six-day trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan—two conflict-hit African countries. On 3 February, the Catholic leader will leave Kinshasa for Juba, the South Sudan capital. 

While there, he will be joined by Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury and Rt. Rev. Iain Greenshields, moderator of the Church of Scotland, for an ecumenical pilgrimage of peace from 3-5 February.

In Kinshasa, Pope Francis criticized the Congo plunder as a poison of greed smearing DRC diamonds with blood.” He stressed that peoples lives were more precious than natural resources.

 “Get your hands off the Democratic Republic of Congo. Get your hands off Africa. Stop smothering Africa—she is not a mine to be exploited or land to be robbed,” the pontiff was widely quoted as saying.

Anglican Bishop Steven Ayule Milenge of Bukavu hailed the popes call as exceptional, as he described the visit as a blessing for Congo. 

Its a benediction and he will talk to the international community on the realities of the war in the east of the country. He has an appointment with people from the east,” said the bishop. We need peace, nothing but peace, without peace it is difficult to do evangelism.”

At the same Milenge queried the international communitys silence over the Congos deadly violence, while comparing this with the attention given to the 1994 Rwanda genocide and the current conflict in Ukraine.

There are more than 10 million Congolese who lost their lives during the various wars in the DRC and the international community is silent,” said the cleric.

Bishop JosueBulambo Lembe Lembe of the Church of Christ said the popes visit was crucial for the countrys peace.

I think the visit is important in helping advocate for Congo in the international community so the country can find peace,” said Lembe Lembe. 

Congo has the worlds richest deposits of diamonds, gold, copper, cobalt, copper, tin, tantalum, and lithium. While abundant mineral resources have helped develop other countries, its mineral wealth continues to fan a deadly conflict involving militias, foreign rebel groups, and government forces.

According to Lembe Lembe, since colonial times, foreigners have exploited Congos minerals for their benefit at the expense of the local people.  

In this century, it is criminal to use arms to get the minerals by force,” said the cleric.

In Nairobi, Rev. Dr Fidon Mwombeki, general secretary of the All Africa Conference of Churches, said he agreed with the pope on the plundering.

The war in eastern Congo must be stopped,” said Mwombeki. “However, he (Pope Francis) should have called on the Congolese government to strive to manage its resources.”

According to the pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania, in DRCs economic mismanagement and endless conflicts, the leaders and the people were not mere victims. He explained that foreigners had local accomplices who helped execute the bad contracts.

 “I believe DRC, like many other African countries with mineral resources, can do better with democracy, good governance, and an end to impunity,” said Mwombeki.

According to the United Nations, the conflict in DRC has displaced an estimated 5.7 million people and left 26 million facing severe hunger.

WCC member churches in DRC

WCC member churches in South Sudan