Pope Francis has encouraged young people from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to create a new future free of ethnic rivalry and corruption that have led to so many conflicts in Africa.
The pontiff made these remarks while addressing more than 65,000 young people at Martyrs stadium, Kinshasa.
Pope Francis spoke out about forgiveness and reconciliation during his recent visit to Congo. This country has been the scene of armed conflict that has displaced millions of people and left them homeless for decades.
Today’s speech was about what he called “ingredients of the future”. It had a more optimistic tone than his previous speeches, as he talked of new possibilities for Congo and not its bloody past or present.
The speech was repeatedly interrupted by cheers and applause. At one point, an organizer took the microphone and shouted “let’s hear the Pope speak!” before he could continue.
He warned the crowd to be careful of the temptation to point fingers at others, to exclude someone because they are different; beware regionalism, tribalism or any other belief that can make you feel secure within your own group.
He said, “You know what happens? First, you believe in prejudices of others. Then you justify hatred and violence. And then, you’re in the middle a war.”
Congo is home to some of the most valuable mineral resources in the world, but these riches have also sparked conflict between ethnic groups and militias as well as foreign invaders.
Violence in the East Congo is also a result of the complex and long-lasting fallout from 1994 Rwanda genocide.
To create a new future, we must forgive and give forgiveness. He said that this is what Christians do.
Francis urged the crowd of young people to “do right things” and asked them to not repeat the mistakes made by previous generations. He referred to “corruption”, which never seems stop spreading.”
He led the crowd in an impromptu chant in French, Congo’s common tongue, of “no corruption”.
Many young people felt the theme resonated with them. They denounced their leaders as corrupt and complained about having to routinely pay bribes for what should have been ordinary services.
According to the United Nations, African economies lose almost $150bn each year (PS122bn) due to corruption.
The Pope had earlier in the day heard from Congolese victims of atrocities. He saw a teenager “raped like a beast” for months and a young man watching his father be decapitated. A former sex slave was forced into cannibalism.
The pope, aged 86, arrived in Congo Tuesday and flew to South Sudan on Friday.
Sky News has more information:
Pompeo tells us who he believes is more dangerous than Putin
How South Africa’s planned power cuts can put lives at risk
In what are described by the three Christian leaders as an unprecedented “pilgrimage of peacefulness”, he will visit together with the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Church of Scotland Moderator.
South Sudan, which is the youngest country in the world, is currently battling conflict and hunger after a civil war.
Most of the deaths were on ethnic lines.
Congolese from the violence-wracked East of the country travelled to Kinshasa to inform the Pope about the terrible violence they endured over the years while rebel groups tried to take control of the region. They launched attacks that forced more than five millions people to flee their homes.
Francis sat silently at the Vatican Embassy Kinshasa while victim after victim came forward and told their stories.
He observed as they offered at the foot a crucifix a symbol for their pain: either the machete that was used to kill and maim, or the straw mat they were raped on. Francis placed his hand on the heads of those present when they knelt before him to bless them.
Francis said to them, “Your tears are mine; your pains are my pain.” “To all families that are grieving or displaced by the burning villages and other war crimes, and to survivors of sexual violence, and to every child and adult injured, I say: I am here for you; I want you to feel God’s love.”