Pope Francis: Peace is possible in South Sudan

Lester Mason
April 14, 2019

The Vatican, together with the South Sudan Council of Churches and the Rome-based Sant' Egidio worldwide peace group, brought the leaders together for prayer and preaching inside the pope's residence in an attempt to heal divisions.

South Sudan's civil war has left 2.1 million people internally displaced, with another 2.5 million refugees, according to the United Nations.

"I'm asking you with my heart", the pope said to the president, Salva Kiir, and the opposition leader, Riek Machar, clutching his hands in front of his chest.

"There will be fights among you, but let these be inside the office", Francis said, staring the leaders and other South Sudanese officials in the eye and urging them to respect their recent armistice and commit to forming a unity government next month.

South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit and rebel leader and former vice president Riek Machar Teny Dhurgon were guests of the head of the Catholic Church and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby in the Vatican.

"The objective of this retreat is for us to stand together before God and to discern his will; it is to reflect on our own lives and the common mission God has entrusted to us; to recognise our enormous shared responsibility for the present and future of the people of South Sudan and commit ourselves to be reinvigorated and reconciled to the building up of your nation".

The pontiff hoped the meeting will end political and ethnic divisions for the best interest of the citizens who wants to build the Africa's youngest nation.

The two sides signed a power-sharing deal in September calling on the main rival factions to assemble, screen and train their respective forces to create a national army before the formation of a unity government next month.

Several ceasefire agreements and peace pacts have failed to end the fighting, which has led to the death of an estimated 380,000 people, uprooted a third of the population, forced almost two-and-a-half million into exile, and triggered bouts of deadly starvation.

The pope said, "People are wearied, exhausted by past conflicts: remember that with war, all is lost!" I shall never tire of repeating this: peace is possible! The women are gathered at the South Sudan Council of Churches headquarters as part of a monthly pattern of prayer and fasting for peace organised by the ecumenical group's women's desk. Welby had proposed the idea of the retreat to the pope.

Francis sat at his desk in a small room inside the Vatican facing the South Sudanese leaders, who were seated on a couch.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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