The World Council of Churches (WCC) will participate in a day of prayer and fasting for South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo on 23 February. Pope Francis called for the day in response to the ongoing social-political tension and violence in the two nations.
In the DRC, 4.3 million people are displaced and 13.1 million people will be in need of humanitarian assistance this year.
In South Sudan, during the past four years of conflict, 2 million people have fled the young nation as refugees and about 1.9 million people are internally displaced. An additional 7 million people inside the country - almost two-thirds of the remaining population - need humanitarian assistance.
In a letter encouraging the WCC fellowship to observe the day of fasting and prayer, WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit said that children, young men, and women have been among the most affected. "Millions of women and girls are exposed to gender-based violence in these crisis-affected areas," he wrote. "We acknowledge the courageous and hopeful work that carries on each day to serve the people in need."
In a letter to Tveit, Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, said it is the hope of Pope Francis that Christians of all churches, together with those belonging to other religious traditions and all people of good will, may join this initiative in the forms they deem to be appropriate.
"The prayer of all Christians on that day for the gift of peace would be an authentic sign of solidarity and closeness to those suffering in these nations and above all to the many Christians from different churches who live there, and moreover would be a tangible step in the shared witness to the Gospel of peace, of which the world is in such need."