War and greed: Rome events shed light on conflict in South Sudan, Congo

IMAGE: CNS photo/James Akena, Reuters

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis has made no secret of
what he thinks is the
motivating force behind the wars and conflicts underway across the globe.

“The powerful, some of the powerful, profit from the
production of arms and they sell arms to this country which is against that
one, and then they sell them to the one that goes against this one. It is the
industry of death! And they profit,” Pope Francis told thousands of students meeting at the Vatican in 2015.

“An elderly priest that I met years ago used to say
this: The devil
enters through the pocketbook, through greed. This is why they don’t want peace!” he

The wars in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo
are among the many conflicts where this is evident, said Sister Yudith Pereira Rico, associate executive
director of Solidarity With South Sudan.

At a Vatican news conference Nov. 16 announcing a prayer service for peace
in the two suffering African nations, Sister Pereira said multinational corporations and
the international community have a vested interest in allowing the wars to
continue in both countries.

“While people are trying to survive this situation,
multinationals are exploiting primary resources,” she said. “The international
community is giving a huge amount of help and (making) immense efforts but, at
the same time, they are still selling weapons. So there is a duplicity in this
attitude. This has to be known.”

Solidarity With South Sudan is an international network of
religious congregations that was formed to train primary school teachers,
workers, pastoral agents and sustainable farmers from all ethnic groups in the country with the hope
they would learn tolerance and reconciliation along the way.

A member of the Congregation of the Religious of Jesus and
Mary, Sister Pereira
has worked for nearly two decades in countries throughout the African continent,
including South Sudan.

people of South Sudan are suffering an armed conflict and a silent genocide
that rarely appears in the media and surpasses the imagination” even though it began in early
2013, Sister
Pereira said.

grade weaponry, however, is not the only thing used to wage war. In
Congo, the violation and exploitation of women also is used as a weapon of war.

Franciscan Sister Sheila Kinsey, coordinator of the Justice,
Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission of the international unions of
women’s and men’s religious orders, said she spent eight years working on
behalf of victims of domestic violence and abuse in the United States prior to
helping victims of sexual violence in Congo.

difference between working on sexual abuse there and in the United States
“was that in the Congo, it was used as a weapon of war and such
atrocities were committed to really humiliate a country. So we knew that that
dimension had to be addressed,” she said.

people, especially women and children, also are innocent victims of greedy corporations
and countries that plunder land and resources, she said, explaining that civilians
“don’t have adequate employment or the benefit of the resources that are
from their own country.”

civilian told her, “You know, we have all these weapons but we
don’t have any industry that makes weapons. Where are they coming from?” Sister
Kinsey said.

Michel Roy, secretary-general of Caritas Internationalis,
said that while the main causes of the conflict in both countries are political
in nature, multinational companies are profiting from “the favorable
conditions” of a weakened state in order to exploit the country’s wealth,
particularly from the diamond mines in the southern Congolese province of

Multinational companies, he said at the news conference,
“think destroying in order to receive is the solution. It isn’t, but that’s
the reality.”

Congolese politicians, Roy added, also receive kickbacks and
“are under the orders of these companies” to keep the conflict alive
so they can continue to exploit the country’s vast diamond industry.

“There are also regional interests so that the Congo
remains this way, that it doesn’t become strong,” he said. “A big
country with these kinds of resources can become an important country in
Africa, like South Africa, like Nigeria.”

Vatican prayer service will be followed in January by a roundtable discussion
primarily focused on building peace in South Sudan and Congo, Sister Pereira
told Catholic News Service. But it also will be an opportunity to shed a
light on the exploitation of innocent civilians.

“Of course one way (to build peace) is what we have
been saying: to stop selling weapons, stop multinationals from working in war
(zones),” she said.

The support given by Pope Francis, who was scheduled to preside over the Nov.
23 prayer service for peace,
Sister Pereira added, is a source of hope for the innocent victims
caught in the crosshairs of conflict because it tells them that others are with them.

need a future and they need to see that other people are also talking about
this,” she said. “For them, it is important that people
outside in Europe — in Italy, wherever — are meeting together for them. They
can be resilient, they can have strength because they have that support.”

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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