Pope Francis “following with concern” Rise in Abductions in Nigeria, Violence in DR Congo

Pope Francis prays during his Wednesday general audience on Nov. 15, 2023. | Credit: Vatican Media

Pope Francis is concerned about the rise in the frequency of abductions in Nigeria and violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

In his traditional Sunday appearance to the public at Vatican’s St. Peter’s Square on February 25, the Holy Father said, “I am following with concern the increase in violence in the Eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo.”

Pope Francis’ concern about violence in Eastern DRC echoes that of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the United Nations Refugee Agency with the mandate to assist and protect refugees, forcibly displaced communities, and stateless people, including facilitating their voluntary repatriation, local integration or resettlement to a third country.

In a February 23 report, UNHCR says it “is gravely concerned by the worsening humanitarian situation civilians face in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)”, and adds that “intensifying violence and conflict are exacting a heavy toll on innocent civilians, hundreds of thousands of whom are attempting to seek safety on the peripheries of conflict zones.”

The report highlights the February 7 “resurgence of fighting” in Sake, a township in DRC’s North Kivu Province, resulting in the displacement of 144,000 individuals, who were “forced to flee the outskirts of Goma.” 


“While conflict around Sake rages, emboldened non-state armed groups have launched a horrific spate of targeted attacks against civilians this week in the Beni region of North Kivu, as well as in the Irumu Territory of Ituri Province,” the UNHCR has reported about the situation that it says is corroborated by eyewitness “reports of killings, kidnappings, and the burning of homes.”


According to UNHCR, “More than 7 million people remain displaced across the country, including half a million refugees. Those displaced contend with already high risks associated with inadequate shelters, poor sanitation facilities and limited income-generating opportunities.”

In a statement issued February 20, members of the National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO) urged the people of God in DRC to show solidarity with the inhabitants of the Eastern part of the country through intensified prayers. 

In his February 25 Angelus Address, Pope Francis expressed his awareness of the prayer appeal of CENCO members. He said, “I join the Bishops' invitation to pray for peace, hoping for the cessation of clashes and the search for sincere and constructive dialogue.”

More in Africa

In expressing his concern about security challenge in Nigeria, the Holy Father decried the “increasingly frequent kidnappings occurring” in the West African nation.

“I express my closeness to the Nigerian people in prayer, hoping that they will work to ensure that the spread of these episodes is contained as much as possible,” Pope Francis said, referring to the increased frequency of abductions in Nigeria. 

In a communique following their weeklong First 2024 Plenary Assembly, members of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) said cases of abduction “are at a scale never witnessed before.”

“Insurgents, armed herdsmen, bandits, and the so-called unknown gunmen have continued to unleash terror in different parts of the country,” CBCN members lamented, and called upon the government of Africa’s most populous nation to “take immediate action to address the challenge of security in the country.”

In his February 25 appearance, the 87-year-old Pontiff who had cancelled his public appearances the previous day “due to a mild flu-like condition” went on to appeal for spiritual solidarity with the people of God in other parts of the world, including victims of the war in Ukraine and the “intense cold wave” in Mongolia.


“I am also close to the population of Mongolia, hit by an intense cold wave, which is causing serious humanitarian consequences. This extreme phenomenon is also a sign of climate change and its effects,” he said.

Pope Francis added, “The climate crisis is a global social problem, which has a profound impact on the lives of many brothers and sisters, especially the most vulnerable: we pray to be able to make wise and courageous choices to contribute to the care of creation.”

The Holy Father concluded a five-day Lenten retreat at his Vatican residence in which all of his regular activities were suspended from the afternoon of February 18 - 23.

Silas Mwale Isenjia is a Kenyan journalist with a great zeal and interest for Catholic Church related communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communication from Moi University in Kenya. Silas has vast experience in the Media production industry. He currently works as a Journalist for ACI Africa.