Pope Francis has urged leaders of South Sudan to make a new start for peace to avoid more bloodshed and violence in the country.
“In the name of God, the God in whom so many people of South Sudan believe, now is the time to say ‘no more of this:’ No more bloodshed, no more violence, no more leaving your people a thirst for peace. Leave the time of war behind and let a time of peace dawn!” said the Pontiff while addressing the gathering at the Presidential office in the capital Juba on Friday.
Pope Francis arrived in the country after visiting neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo where he called for peace following fighting since November last year, between March 23rd Movement rebels and Congolese government troops (FARDC) in the Eastern Kivu region.
He said that his visit to South Sudan is a pilgrim of reconciliation.
The Pontiff was received by President Salva Kiir, First Vice President Riek Machar, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the moderator of the Church of Scotland, Iain Greenshields.
“We wish to offer you our heartfelt prayers and our support, so that South Sudan can experience reconciliation and a change of direction. May its vital course no longer be overwhelmed by the flood of violence, mired in the swamps of corruption and blocked by the inundation of poverty,” he said.
The Pontiff said that all the children of the African continent and all over the world have the right to grow up holding in their hands notebooks and toys, and not weapons and tools for labor.
“May it be for everyone an occasion to revive hope. Let each citizen understand that the time has come to stop being carried along by the tainted waters of hatred, tribalism, regionalism and ethnic differences. It is time to sail together towards the future,” he said.
Pope Francis said that years of war and conflict seem never to end, citing the recent incidents of violence in some parts of the country.
“At the same time, the process of reconciliation seems stagnant and the promise of peace unfulfilled,” he said.
The historic visit came on the eve of community clashes on Thursday in Kajo Keji County of Central Equatoria State that left 27 civilians killed.
“May this protracted suffering not be in vain; may the patience and the sacrifices of the South Sudanese, this young, humble and courageous people, challenge everyone and, like the seeds sown in the soil that give life to plants, allow peace to blossom and bear fruit,” said Pope Francis.
South Sudan President Salva kiir Mayardit, said the visit of the Pope and other two religious leaders will push them for peace and reconciliation.
“It’s my sincere hope that our push for peace and reconciliation will be helped by the Ecumenical pilgrimage to the Republic of South Sudan by Holy Father, Pope Francis, Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Justin Welby and the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, Dr.Iain Greenshields,” said Kiir.
“This historic visit of these prominent global Christian leaders must compel us to engage in deep thinking about our recent history, especially on how it relates to the noble task of peace consolidation and the important projects of reconciliation and forgiveness among our people,” he added.
Kiir said that he is aware of the huge expectation regarding the implementation of the 2018 revitalized peace agreement.
“I know that not everyone is satisfied with the pace of the Revitalized peace agreement implementation, but what is important is that we, as the parties to the agreement are working together in the spirit of dialogue to overcome challenges before us, and we will remain committed until peace is firmly consolidated in South Sudan,” he said.
Pope Francis started his fifth visit to Africa on February 2nd in neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo.
The trip is Francis’s 40th abroad since he was elected the head of the Catholic Church in 2013.