In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, political unrest first erupted in 2015 after a bill was proposed which would potentially delay the presidential and parliamentary elections. The bill was widely seen by the opposition as a power grab on the part of Kabila.
Relations between the government and the opposition deteriorated further when a Kasai chief was killed last August, after calling on the central government to quit meddling in the territory, insisting it be controlled by the local leaders.
Catholic bishops in the country had helped to negotiate an agreement, which hoped to prevent a renewed civil war by securing an election this year for the successor of President Kabila. However, in January of this year, the bishops said the agreement was expected to fail unless both parties were willing to compromise. In March, the bishops withdrew from mediation talks.
With a history of bloody ethnic rivalries and clashes over resources, fears have developed that the violence in Kasai, a hub for political tension, will spread to the rest of the nation and even lead to the involvement of neighboring countries.
In the past year alone, more than 3,300 people have been killed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo's Kasai region. The death toll includes civilians caught in the crossfire of a brutal fight between the Congolese army and an opposing militia group.
According to the Guardian, violence in the east of the country in recent weeks has increased to the extent that last week alone some 7,000 people fled to neighboring Burundi and another 1,200 into Tanzania.
In terms of a humanitarian crisis, the Food and Agriculture Organization last week pointed to an "alarming food insecurity" in the country, due largely to the fact that violence has now spread into areas that were previously considered stable, such as the Kasai and Tanganyika provinces. In the past six months alone, the number of people experiencing extreme hunger has risen by 2 million, rising to about 7.7 million people, which is roughly 10% of the population.
After reflecting on the day's Gospel reading from Mark and leading faithful in praying the Angelus, Pope Francis also offered his prayer and closeness to the people of Madagascar, who were recently hit by a massive cyclone which so far has left at least 51 people dead and has caused extensive damage.
Francis assured of his prayer, and asked that the Lord would "comfort and sustain" all those who have died or who have been displaced.