Middle East

Pope meets war victims, speaks to South Sudan’s women’s plight news

Pope Francis said the South Sudan church “cannot remain neutral” but has been plagued by injustice and abuse of power as he and two other Christian leaders carried out a peace mission to the world’s newest nation. He said he had to raise his voice.

After arriving in the newest country in the world by the first pope in history visit On Friday, Francis spent Saturday first serving church workers and then South Sudanese who were forced to leave their homes due to fighting, flooding and other crises.

South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011 but plunged into civil war in 2013 as ethnic groups clashed with each other. In 2018, he said, despite a peace deal signed between two major rival nations, outbreaks of inter-ethnic fighting have killed and displaced a large number of civilians.

Francis made a special emphasis on the plight of women in South Sudan. Half of the women were married before the age of 18, were sexually assaulted, and then faced the highest maternal mortality rate in the world.

At St. Teresa’s Cathedral in Juba, the capital, Francis said, “In a country ravaged by war, hatred, violence and poverty, let us ask ourselves what it means to be ministers of God.

“How can we fulfill our mission in this land, along the banks of the blood-soaked rivers of innocence, among the tear-stained faces of those entrusted to us? ”

According to the United Nations, South Sudan has 2.2 million internally displaced people out of a total population of about 11.6 million, and another 2.3 million people have fled the country as refugees.

Extreme poverty and hunger are rampant, with two-thirds of the population in need of humanitarian assistance as a result of the conflict, as well as three years of devastating flooding.

Joined by the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and the Presbyterian head of the Church of Scotland, Francis has sought to bring the country’s plight to the world’s attention.

The purpose of the visit was to encourage South Sudan’s political leaders to implement the 2018 peace agreement. civil war.

The agreement and many of its key provisions, including the formation of a unified national army, stalled amidst political infighting, and ongoing clashes across the country delayed the first presidential election for another two years.

At the cathedral on Saturday, Francis urged South Sudan’s bishops, priests, nuns and seminarians to accompany them and serve their flock, rather than participate in religious life for the sake of social prestige.

“It is precisely this art of stepping in the midst of our brothers and sisters, in the midst of their suffering and tears, in the midst of their hunger for God and their thirst for love. It is the ability to step into,” he said.

Francis heard that some nuns had made terrible sacrifices. Sisters Mary Daniel Abbatt and Regina Loba Ruate of the Order of the Sacred Heart were killed along with two others in an ambush in 2021.

“On behalf of the entire church, I thank you for your dedication, courage, sacrifice and perseverance,” Francis said.

South Sudan’s women and girls are living a “hellish life,” the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan said last year in a report based on years of interviews.

“Women in South Sudan have been physically assaulted while being raped at gunpoint and are usually held down by men while being abused by others. They have been told not to, and not to report what happened, or they will be killed.

“It’s hard to convey the level of trauma for women in South Sudan, whose bodies are literally a war zone,” the commission’s chairman, Yasmin Souka, said late last year.

In his arrival speech on Friday, Francis raised the plight of women and called for protection and promotion.

Sister Regina Akan was among those who visited the cathedral on Saturday. He said Francis’ visit would encourage other sisters to continue their ministry.

“We stand with them because we are their voice and they don’t run away during difficult times,” Achan said.

Francis’ visit “will evoke tranquility and peace in our hearts so that we can work for peace and justice in this country,” she added.

Francis told President Salva Kiir and his former rival, now Vice President Riek Machar, on Friday that history will judge them harshly if they continue to stretch their legs towards implementing the peace deal. issued a candid warning.

Kiel promised the government to return to peace talks (suspended last year) with groups that did not sign the 2018 agreement.

His Holiness’ stay in South Sudan visit To the Democratic Republic of the Congo, another resource-rich country plagued by persistent conflict.

Francis’ fifth visit to Africa, originally scheduled for 2022, was postponed due to the Pope’s knee problems.

Illness forced him to rely on a wheelchair and cut back on his itineraries in both countries.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/2/4/pope-meets-south-sudan-war-victims Pope meets war victims, speaks to South Sudan’s women’s plight news

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