By Linda Bordoni
In a joint message celebrating the Easter season, Pope Francis, Archbishop Justin Welby, and Reverend Jim Wallace invite South Sudan’s leaders to work for reconciliation and a future of peace and fraternity.
The Pope is scheduled to travel to South Sudan in July together with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Moderator of the Church of Scotland, in the person of Reverend Dr. Iain M. Greenshields who will succeed Reverend Jim Wallace in May.
“In this Easter season, we write to share with you our joy as we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who shows us that a new way is possible.”
This path leads to new life, the message continues “both for us as individuals and for those we lead.”
It is our prayer, the leaders say, “that you will embrace afresh this way, in order to discern new avenues amid the challenges and struggles at this time.”
Concluding, they say that in anticipation of their Pilgrimage of Peace this coming summer, they look forward to visiting South Sudan.
The world’s youngest country
The Republic of South Sudan is the world’s newest country, having gained its independence from Sudan in July 2011.
Since independence, however, the country has struggled to set up a viable governing system and has been faced with a variety of challenges, including political conflicts, corruption, and communal violence.
In 2013, conflict erupted between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and forces loyal to Vice-president Riek Machar. The fighting quickly spread throughout the country and unfolded along ethnic lines, killing tens of thousands of people and creating a humanitarian crisis, with millions displaced and in need of assistance.
There have been a series of peace agreements resulting in the formation of a coalition government in 2020, but the country continues to struggle to overcome the hurdles that come with implementing that agreement that has not been fully implemented because there continues to be enmity between the parties involved.
Pope Francis has repeatedly called for reconciliation between warring South Sudanese parties, and in April 2019 he hosted South Sudanese leaders in a two-day spiritual retreat in the Vatican, during which he urged them to strengthen the country’s faltering peace process.