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Pope Francis calls on young South Sudanese to rewrite history of their country

Pope Francis has appealed to South Sudanese youth to rewrite the history of their country by learning from the experience of the elderly who are their roots.

 “May you, young people of different ethnicities, write the first pages of this new chapter? Although conflict, violence and hatred have replaced good memories on the first pages of the life of this Republic, you must be the ones to rewrite its history as a history of peace,” said Pope Francis while meeting with more than 2000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) at Freedom hall on Saturday in Juba.

He expressed his “closeness and affection” to all people suffering displacement in South Sudan due to violence and natural calamities.

“I am here with you, and I suffer for you and with you,” he said.

The Pontiff renewed his forceful and heartfelt appeal to end all conflict and to resume the peace process in a serious way, so that violence can end and people can return to living in dignity.

“At last I am here, together with my brothers on this pilgrimage of peace to express to you all my closeness, all my affection. I am with here with you, and I suffer for you and with you,” he revealed.

Pope Francis said that if mothers and women receive proper opportunities, they would have the ability to change the face of South Sudan to give it a peaceful and cohesive development.

“I ask all the people of these lands to ensure that women are protected, respected, valued and honoured. Please, protect, respect, appreciate and honour every woman, every girl, young woman, mother and grandmother. Otherwise, there will be no future, I suffer for you and with you,” said the Holy Father.

The Pope insisted on the urgency of restoring long-term peace, so that some of the displaced children whose chilling testimonies he listened to could enjoy a normal childhood in an open and integrated society.

“There is a need for you to grow as an open society for different groups to mingle and to form a single people by embracing the challenges of integration, even learning the languages spoken throughout the country and not just those in your particular ethnic group. It is absolutely essential to avoid ostracizing groups and ghettoizing human beings. To meet all these challenges, however, there is a need for peace,” he said.

Pope Francis expressed gratitude to all humanitarian agencies and United Nations for helping displaced people, and those in emergency situations in South Sudan.

He also remembered the many humanitarian workers who have lost their lives while carrying out relief work in South Sudan.

In this regard, Pope Francis further stressed the need for long-term international support by accompanying the population on the path of development so as to make it self-sufficient.

“The future of South Sudan cannot lie in refugee camps,” said the Pope.

The Pope was accompanied by the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, and Scottish Presbyterian Moderator Iain Greenshields to Freedom Hall.

Rebecca Nyakor, one of the IDPs urged the Pope to pray and bless South Sudan to achieve total peace and stability to enable her and other displaced people return home.

She said that they are tired of staying in the IDPs camp, adding that the papal visit provides opportunity for the country to be peaceful and stable.

“If there is peace and stability we can come together and grow together as people of South Sudan,” said Nyakor.

Johnson Juma Alex, another displaced person who travelled all the way from Malakal town of Upper State, said that without peace nothing will change in the country.

“We want people in the church to pray for us such that there is peace and we return home from IDP camps, our lives in the IDP camps is not good but we stay conditionally, many of us are not in school due to fear and no good schools in the camp,” said Juma.

“I want to have a bright future but without peace I will not get that, so my hope for the coming of Pope to South Sudan is to bring for us peace and I am happy to be given this opportunity to stand in front of Pope and say this message of peace,” he added.

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