Church Leaders of South Sudan Ask Pope Francis to Make Peace Mission to their Country
CANAA || By Father Don Bosco Onyalla, Nairobi || 27 October 2016
Leaders of the Catholic, Anglican, and Presbyterian churches in South Sudan have Thursday, October 27, requested Pope Francis to visit their country to broker a peace deal between parties in conflict in their homeland, the world’s youngest nation that has been experiencing violent internal conflicts since December 2013.
The Catholic Archbishop Paulino Lukudu Loro of Juba, Anglican Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul Yak who is the Primate of the Province of the Episcopal Church in South Sudan and Sudan (ECSS/S), and Rt. Rev. Peter Gai Lual Marrow who is the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan and Sudan (PCoSS/S) and doubles as the Chairman of South Sudan Council of Churches traveled to the Vatican Tuesday, October 25, following the invitation of the Holy Father to share with him about the situation of the crisis in their country.
According to Vatican Radio, “The Catholic Archbishop of Juba said on Thursday that Pope Francis told him that he would like to visit South Sudan.”
The South Sudanese Christian leaders informed the Pope about the crisis in their country including “the killings, the refugees and the prevailing fear and appealed to the Pope to come and visit their homeland.”
The Holy Father is reported to have said that he was close to the leaders and their people in their sufferings and repeated twice that he wanted to visit South Sudan.
According to the press statement dated October 27 and signed by all these Principal Christian Religious leaders of South Sudan, “During the meeting with the Holy Father it was acknowledged that good and fruitful collaboration exists among the Christian Churches, who wish primarily to offer their contribution to promoting the common good, protecting the dignity of the person, protecting the helpless and implementing initiatives for dialogue and reconciliation.”
During their Thursday morning meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican, the leaders encouraged the Pope to make a joint peace mission to South Sudan together with the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and help broker peace between President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar.
“A visit by the Pope and Archbishop of Canterbury would mean unity”, South Sudan Anglican Archbishop Deng has been quoted as telling The Tablet, adding, “If the two leaders of the major faith groups could come and beg for peace – that would make a big impact on the country.”
Catholic Archbishop Lukudu has expressed hope for the coming together of parties in conflict if Pope Francis would visit South Sudan saying, “There isn’t security in South Sudan but even those rebels fighting in the bush will come out to meet the Pope.”
Archbishop Lukudu further said that President Kiir is in favour of the Papal visit and would be ready to formalize the invitation as the head of State.
Pope “Francis was also urged today to step up the Holy See’s diplomatic presence in South Sudan,” The Tablet reported and added, “The papal ambassador is based in Kenya and regularly visits the country, but Archbishop Loro asked the Pope today for a nuncio based permanently in the country.”
Since December 2013, South Sudan has lived through violent conflict pitting President Kiir on one part and rebel leader Machar on the other.
A peace agreement signed by the warring factions in August 2015 through the mediation of regional leaders has not been continually violated.
Last July, fresh fighting erupted in the country’s capital Juba, forcing Machar who had been reinstated first Vice President to flee.
There is a United Nation 12,000-strong peacekeeping force with a mandate to protect civilians.
According to the UN, some 200,000 civilians are being sheltered at six UN bases in various parts of South Sudan.