ROME – At the end of the general audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis spoke out against violence, particularly its escalation amid political protests taking place in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“Unfortunately, troubling news continues to come from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Therefore, I renew my call for everyone to commit to avoiding all forms of violence,” he said Jan. 24.

“On her part, the Church wants nothing other than to contribute to the peace and to the common good of society.”

The Democratic Republic of Congo is currently experiencing deadly political tensions as protesters, banned by the Congolese government, demand that President Joseph Kabila step down.

Dozens of people have died in political protests, and militia violence has increased, prompting fears of a return to civil war.

Under Kabila, who has held office since 2001, Congolese bishops have spoken out against the government’s human rights violations and the president’s plan to remove term limits that bar him from re-election.

The bishops also helped mediate an agreement between the country’s ruling political coalition and opposition leaders, culminating in a Dec. 31, 2016 agreement.

The agreement allowed Kabila to remain in office beyond his mandate but he must step down after an election to be held this year. However, the country’s electoral commission then said an election could not be organized until December 2018. The president’s opponents fear Kabila aims to remain in power, while the president has blamed delays on a slow voter registration process.

The eastern regions of the Democratic Republic of Congo are also suffering from armed conflict, with millions of people forced from their homes.