‘See God in your enemies’, Pope Francis To South Sudanese Leaders

Spiritual retreat for South Sudan in the Vatican on 11 April 2019Spiritual retreat for South Sudan in the Vatican on 11 April 2019  (Vatican Media)
Pope Francis, the Archbishop of Canterbury and Church of Scotland Moderator send their Easter greetings to South Sudan’s political leaders inviting them to go forward on a path of forgiveness and freedom.

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.”

“A way of forgiveness and freedom, which enables us humbly to see God in each other, even in our enemies.”

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.”

“We pray too that your people will experience the hope of Easter through your leadership.”

Concluding, they say that in anticipation of their Pilgrimage of Peace this coming summer, they look forward to visiting South Sudan.

Official logo of the Pope's pilgrimage to South Sudan
Official logo of the Pope’s pilgrimage to 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.

Juba residents celebrate independence on 9 July 2011
Juba residents celebrate independence on 9 July 2011

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