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Rome Reports

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Democratic Republic of Congo: Government rounds up Catholic hierarchy, only mediator for peace

The Democratic Republic of the Congo is one of Africa's battlefields. It has all the makings of an ungovernable country – corruption and endless armed conflicts between religious groups, sects and ethnicities. The result is four million displaced people and 500,000 refugees from other countries. Tragedies like child soldiers form a small part of the collateral damage caused by a mess of confrontation. 

To make matters worse, the only prestigious player, the Catholic hierarchy, is experiencing constant provocation from the government. 

Last Sunday, the military attacked Christians who protested against President Joseph Kabila. Six were left dead and more than 100 arrests were made. At least 10 priests and two nuns were kidnapped by the forces. The anger of affected Christians weighs heavily on the bishops who tirelessly make efforts for peace between the government and opposition. 

“We demand the departure of Joseph Kabila. He cannot massacre people like that. We are governed by the constitution. He violates the constitution, he kills protesters. It is not normal. We demand his departure.”

President Joseph Kabila rose to power in 2001 and threatens to remain in control. His term was supposed to have ended in December 2016. However, he broke his commitment of holding elections in late 2017. They will potentially be held at the end of this year. 

Pope Francis closely follows developments from Rome. In September 2016, he met with Kabila and called for a day of prayer last November in light of the country's situation. The Holy Father's calls for peace have been constant, even occurring on his trip to Peru. 

“Everyone together, in silence, we pray for this intention, for our brothers and sisters from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.”

The United Nations has deployed nearly 16,000 troops, but they've been unable to handle the situation. Last December, an attack left 14 dead and 40 wounded. It was the worst strike the blue berets have suffered in recent history.