The head of the catholic church, Pope Francis, has made an impassioned plea for an end to tribal and ethnic violence in South Sudan. This follows a touchdown in the capital, Juba, after his three-day visit to the war-stricken Democratic Republic of Congo, where he made a similar call.
Vatican news reported that the pope’s peace pilgrimage was attended by over 100,000 people, including those who walked nine days to join the pilgrimage.
The dominant Christian country has been ravaged by tribal conflict since it gained independence twelve years ago. Ethnic violence in South Sudan has a long history among the country’s varied ethnic groups.
South Sudan has 64 tribes with the largest being the Dinkas, who constitute about thirty per cent of the population and predominate in government. The second largest is the Nuers. Conflict is often provoked among nomadic groups over the issue of cattle and grazing land and is part of the extensive Sudanese nomadic conflicts. About 20 people were killed in a cattle raid a day before the pontiff’s visit, according to the BBC.
Speaking to pilgrims in the capital Juba, the pope called on the country’s leaders to make a “new start” and put an end to violence and destruction of the country. He advised that they should focus on building the country and forget about the miseries of the past.
The pope was also joined by leaders of the protestant church – Archbishop Justin Welby and Dr. Iain Greenshields, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. They jointly called for peace and the shying away from the “venom of hatred”. It was the first time in 500 years the leaders of the three traditions were coming together for an ecumenical visit.
Pope Francis ended his visit with an open-air mass on Saturday, February 4, 2023, reassuring South Sudanese of his love for them, and encouraging them to not be neutral in the face of injustice, but to speak up against it as it is “an offence against Christ”.
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