Pope Francis on Wednesday slammed “brutal atrocities, which bring shame upon all humanity” in eastern DR Congo, after hearing testimony from victims of the conflict in the capital Kinshasa.
The pontiff also appealed to those who “plunder, scourge and destabilise” the turbulent region to lay down their weapons, on the second day of his visit to the country, Africa’s largest Catholic state.
“You are enriching yourselves through the illegal exploitation of this country’s goods and through the brutal sacrifice of innocent victims,” Francis said, in an address.
“Listen to the cry of their blood,” he added, alluding to a verse from the Book of Genesis.
The pope then called for mercy from God.
“May he convert the hearts of those who carry out brutal atrocities, which bring shame upon all humanity,” Francis said.
Dozens of armed groups have plagued mineral-rich eastern Democratic Republic of Congo for decades.
Since late 2021, the M23 rebel group has captured swathes of North Kivu province in the east, forcing hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes.
The region has also seen a wave of deadly attacks blamed on the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a group the Islamic State claims as an affiliate, including a bomb blast at a Pentecostal church this month that killed 14 people.
Before giving his address on Wednesday afternoon, the Argentine pope heard testimony from four victims of violence in the east, who described abuses ranging from mutilation to rape.
One 16-year-old boy, Ladislas Kambale Kombi, recounted how he had seen his father chopped to pieces and his mother kidnapped.
Emelda M’karhungulu, another victim, told Francis that militants had held her as a sex slave three months.
“They made us eat corn paste with the meat of killed men,” she said.
Pope Francis said he was shocked by the stories of “inhumane” violence. “Your tears are my tears,” the 86-year-old said.
He added that the war had been “unleashed by an insatiable greed for raw materials and money that fuels a weaponised economy and requires instability and corruption.”