Christian religious leaders of South Sudan met Pope Francis in Rome last week. The participants of the meeting underlined that the forgiveness and acceptance of the other is the path to building peace, and to human and social development in the war-torn country.
The situation in South Sudan is rapidly shifting from bad to worse and getting out of hands for both conflict parties. Peace remains elusive and the United Nations warns of increasing violence. In September, tens of thousands of people were internally displaced, and almost 3,000 people a day fled across the border to Uganda.
“South Sudan’s fragility has been exacerbated by the devastating return of widespread violence, callous, criminality and systematic disregard for human life, and a toxic breakdown of national identity and the country’s social fabric” says FCA’s country manager Pio Ding in Juba.
“In this context of despair, the visit was an opportunity for the Church leaders to leverage their influence as key moral stakeholders working and promoting the attainment of sustainable peace in South Sudan.”
The meeting with the Pope was attended by the four heads of the churches that FCA works closely with in peace efforts for South Sudan. The meeting was a chance to demonstrate the unity of purpose of the churches in South Sudan as well as to create a rare glimpse of hope in a fragile country.
“When the delegation returned to the airport in Juba on Monday, it was met with a large welcoming committee and an enthusiastic crowd who wanted to hear the Pope’s message. People are looking for signs of hope in the midst of a deteriorating situation and this visit was certainly a very positive and powerful one”, says Marie Makweri, FCA’s peace officer.
Hopefully, there will be a chance to continue the discussion. During the meeting, church leaders invited the Pope to visit South Sudan. Both Pio Ding and Marie Makweri very much welcome the initiative.
“It would show to the many South Sudanese, who are living in extremely difficult circumstances, and are suffering enormously from the ongoing conflict, that the rest of the world is still standing in solidarity with them, and supporting peace initiatives”, Makweri says.
“No matter how difficult the situation may look like, it is important to maintain the hope that peace can be attained.”
The delegation to Vatican included the main Christian religious leaders of South Sudan: Archbishop Paulino Lukudu Loro, the Metropolitan Archbishop of Juba (Roman Catholic Church), Archbishop Dr Daniel Deng Bul Yak, Archbishop and Primate of the Province of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan and Sudan (ECSS/S), Rev Moderator Peter Gai Lual Marrow, Chairman of the South Sudan Council of Churches and the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan and Father James Oyet Latansio, General Secretary of the South Sudan Council of Churches.
Text: Satu Helin