By Devin Watkins
As Pope Francis prepares to visit the Democratic Republic of Congo on 31 January to 3 February, violent attacks continue to leave many civilians dead or wounded, especially in the east of the Central African nation.
In the most recent attack, suspected terrorists bombed the Pentecostal church in the eastern city of Kasindi on Sunday.
Hundreds of worshipers had gathered to welcome new members to the community in baptism. A blast rocked the church’s courtyard, killing at least 14 people and wounding more than 40 others.
The so-called Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, and the Congolese army blamed the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), which is allied to ISIS.
Pope’s sorrow for attack
Pope Francis expressed his grief for the terrorist bombing in a telegram sent on Tuesday.
Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin signed the telegram, which was addressed to Rev. André Bokundoa-Bo-Likabe, President of the Church of Christ in Congo.
The Pope said he was “saddened to learn of the attack on a Pentecostal church in Kasindi, which caused the death of innocent people.”
He also expressed his “compassion and closeness to all the families affected by the tragedy.”
The Holy Father entrusted the victims to the mercy of God.
Pope Francis concluded his telegram by praying to “Christ, the Lord of life, that those affected might fight consolation and trust in God” and invoking upon them the gift of peace.
Violence has claimed many lives in eastern Congo for decades, with over 120 armed groups and militias active in the region.
At least 6 million people have been internally displaced by the violence, many of whom are facing extreme food insecurity, according to the United Nations