Pope Francis has accepted an invitation by church leaders in South Sudan to visit and preach peace in the war-torn country embroiled in inter-ethnic and political conflict.
After five years of independence, South Sudan should be a country full of hope looking to put itself on the world map through its massive oil wealth.
The country is instead embroiled in a man-made humanitarian crisis, causing raging violence, displacing its people. More than 6 million people are facing severe hunger and about 5 million in need of aid.
South Sudan descended into civil war in December 2013 when President Salva Kiir sacked his deputy Riek Machar, following a dispute.
Loyalists of President Salva Kiir, an ethnic Dinka (the country’s largest group) and his sacked deputy, who is Nuer, the second largest community, were involved in a clash. What began as a political squabble escalated into ethnic violence.
A peace deal was reached in 2015 after the threat of sanctions by the UN. The pact seemingly ended the fighting but has frequently been violated.
The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights is urging the government to act and curtail the impending mass atrocities due to occur in South Sudan because of the rise in hate speech and incitement of violence against certain ethnic groups.
Rev. Peter Gai Lual Marrow of the South Sudan’s Presbyterian Church revealed on Thursday that the pontiff ”accepted the invitation and said that in principle he really wants to come.”
The pope asked Rev. Marrow, along with the Catholic Archbishop of Juba, Paulino Lukudu Loro and the Episcopalian Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul Yak who held talks with His Grace, to come to the Vatican to discuss the situation.
The interference of Pope Francis, who was this year regarded as the most popular world leader according to an opinion poll, will surely be needed to bring calm to the country.
The pope would, however, need an official invitation from the South Sudanese government to visit the country. South Sudanese mostly follow Christian or traditional animist beliefs.
The people of South Sudanese are mostly Christian or traditional animist.