JUBA, South Sudan (AP) — Pope Francis will make a final appeal for peace in South Sudan on Sunday, holding a mass in front of tens of thousands of people, the Christian religion said to advance the country’s recovery from civil war. Concluded an unusual mission by the leader. .
On the final day of his pilgrimage to Africa, Francis pleaded with the people of South Sudan to lay down their weapons and forgive each other, before an estimated 70,000 people, including the country’s political leaders, at the memorial to the country’s independence hero John Garan. presided over the mass.
“Even if our hearts bleed because of what we have done, let us categorically refuse to pay evil for evil,” said Francis. “Let us accept each other as God loves us, and love one another with sincerity and generosity.”
His message was meant to restore hope to the world’s youngest nation, which gained independence from Muslim-majority Sudan in 2011 but is plagued by civil war and conflict.
President Salva Kiir, his longtime rival Riek Machar, and other opposition groups signed a peace deal in 2018, but few of the terms of the deal, including the formation of a national united army, have been implemented. , the fighting continues to intensify.
“We have suffered a lot,” said Natalima Andrea, a 66-year-old mother of seven, who wiped tears from her eyes as she waited for Francis’ Mass to begin. We need lasting peace now, and I hope these prayers will lead to lasting peace.”
To spur this process, Francis was joined by the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and the Minister of the Church of Scotland, Rt. Ian Greenshields. The aim of Catholic, Anglican and Presbyterian leaders was to persuade Kiel and Mather to recommit to his 2018 accord.
Welby and Greenshields were supposed to join Francis at the altar for Mass on Sunday and accompany him on his flight back to Rome.
The three also aimed to cast a global spotlight on the plight of a country that is oil-rich yet one of the world’s poorest. flood. Corruption allegations against Watchdogs are also widespread. Some South Sudanese noticed that upon His Holiness’ arrival, his modest car was overshadowed by the opulent ones of local officials.
During their three-day visit, Francis, Welby and Greenshields explored the plight of South Sudan’s most vulnerable people, the women and children who bear the brunt of the displacement and who make up the majority of those living in makeshift camps. I tried to get your attention.
They particularly raised the plight of women in a country where sexual violence is rife, child brides are common and maternal mortality is among the highest in the world.
“When it comes to South Sudan, South Sudan is a patriarchal country,” said Elizabeth Nibor Marou, an economics lecturer at the Catholic University of South Sudan. Citing cultural norms that wealth is passed on to male heirs and women marry young for their dowry, she said it was a constant effort to keep girls in school. .
South Sudanese women are “tired. They’re struggling. They’re frustrated and stuck.”
Edmund Yakani, executive director of the Community Empowerment for Progress Organization, said the visit of the three leaders was an important impetus to the peace process.
He called it “a grave exposure of our political leaders to their personal responsibility to win the peace and stability of the country.”
Contributed by Trisha Thomas.
AP’s religious coverage is supported through a partnership between AP and The Conversation US with funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. AP is solely responsible for this content.
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