“It Is Time To Say No More Bloodshed”, Pope Tells Kiir, Machar
By Deng Machol
Juba – Pope Francis has told President Salva Kiir and his rival deputy, Dr. Riek Machar to turn their backs on the violence, ethnic hatred and corruption and bring lasting peace to the world youngest country.
Pope called aimed to end the years of violence that has inflicted pain on South Sudanese.
The Ecumenical pilgrimage of peace is geared towards Healing, Reconciliation and Unity amongst the people of South Sudan.
South Sudan broke away from Sudan to become independent in 2011 after decades of conflict, but civil war erupted in 2013.
Despite a 2018 peace deal between the two main antagonists, violence and hunger still plague the East Africa’s youngest nation.
The Roman Catholic leader arrived in the capital Juba on Friday for an unprecedented joint “pilgrimage of peace.
Hundreds of thousands of people sang, drummed and ululated, turnout to receive Pope Francis.
Upon arrival, Pope had met with the presidency officials, diplomats, religious leaders and civil society groups.
In the jointly addressed after an intense closed-door meeting with the president Kiir at the Presidential Palace on Friday.
Pope Francis said they undertook this ecumenical pilgrimage of peace after hearing the plea of an entire people that, with great dignity, weeps for the violence it endures, its persistent lack of security, its poverty and the natural disasters that it has experienced.
“Years of war and conflict seem never to end. At the same time, the process of reconciliation seems stagnant and the promise of peace unfulfilled,” said Pope.
“May this protracted suffering not be in vain; may the patience and the sacrifices of the South Sudanese, this young, humble and courageous people, challenge everyone and, like the seeds sown in the soil that give life to plants, allow peace to blossom and bear fruit,” he added.
Pope, however appealed to President Kiir and Vice President Riek Machar to end the bloodshed and return the country to peace.
“Now is the time to say no more bloodshed, no more conflicts, no more violence and mutual recriminations about who is responsible for it, no more leaving your people athirst for peace. No more destruction: it is time to build! Leave the time of war behind and let a time of peace dawn,” said Pope through a translator.
The pontiff emphasized on the need for reconciliation and called on nation to shun hatred, tribalism and regionalism.
“There is no peace without justice, no freedom without justice. Every person has the right to life,” said Pope.
Pope further reminded the leaders that you are called to renew the life of society as pure sources of prosperity and peace, so greatly needed for the sons and daughters of South Sudan.
“They need fathers, not overlords; they need steady steps towards development, not constant collapses,” said Pope.
On his part, President Kiir described Pope’s visit as a historic milestone, noting that the ecumenical visit will leave a positive impact on our national conscience.
He reaffirmed his commitment to fully implement peace with the parties.
“It is important to note that the parties are working together in the spirit of dialogue to overcome challenges before us and we will remain committed until peace is firmly consolidated in South Sudan,” said President Kiir.
Meanwhile, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said that the three religious leaders had come “to encourage the church to remember its remarkable work historically in building peace and bringing people together.”
“We come to listen to the young people, and to tell leaders about their hopes for peace and opportunity,” said Welby.
Iain Greenshields, the Scottish church leader says, “We need leaders and churches that really work for peace.”
Pope had wanted to visit South Sudan for years but each time planning for a trip began it had to be postponed because of instability in the country, including his health issues.
The pope will celebrate Mass before flying back to Rome on Sunday.