You can’t stay indifferent! You must speak out against injustice and abuse of power in SSD, pope tells Churches
As he and two other Christian leaders launched a peace trip to the world’s newest nation, Pope Francis said churches in South Sudan “cannot stay indifferent” and must speak out against injustice and abuse of power.
On his first full day in South Sudan, Francis addressed Catholic bishops, priests, and nuns at Juba’s St. Therese Cathedral, while the Archbishop of Canterbury and the leader of the Church of Scotland performed services nearby.
South Sudan seceded from Sudan in 2011, but descended into civil conflict in 2013, with ethnic groups turning against one another. Despite a 2018 peace agreement between the two major adversaries, the inter-ethnic conflict has continued to kill and displace many residents.
“Brothers and sisters, we too are called to intercede for our people, to raise our voices against the injustice and the abuses of power that oppress and use violence to suit their own ends,” Francis said, adding that religious leaders “cannot remain neutral before the pain caused by acts of injustice”.
According to the United Nations, there are 2.2 million internally displaced persons in South Sudan, out of a total population of around 11.6 million, and another 2.3 million have left the nation as refugees.
Extreme poverty and hunger abound, with two-thirds of the population in desperate need of humanitarian help as a consequence of war and three years of devastating floods.
Francis was in the church when he heard a nun describe how two of her fellow sisters were slain in an ambush near Juba in 2021.
“Let us ask ourselves what it means to be God’s ministers in a nation torn by war, hate, violence, and poverty,” Francis remarked before leading prayers for them.
“How can we practice our ministry in this place, along the banks of a river steeped in so much innocent blood?” he wondered, alluding to the country’s White Nile.
Later on Saturday, Francis, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, and Church of Scotland Moderator Iain Greenshields will meet with war refugees and listen to their tales.
The three Christian leaders will later participate in an open-air ecumenical prayer vigil at a tomb for South Sudan’s liberation hero John Garang, with 50,000 people anticipated to attend.
This is the first joint visit in Christian history.
South Sudan is primarily Christian, and tens of thousands of people lined the streets of Juba on Friday to greet Pope Francis with singing, drumming, and ululations when he returned from a visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Francis urged South Sudan’s leaders, including formerly warring President Salva Kiir and Vice-President Riek Machar, to reject bloodshed, ethnic hate, and corruption in a sharply worded address.
On the same occasion, Welby expressed regret that bloodshed had persisted after the 2018 peace agreement and a 2019 Vatican meeting in which the pope knelt to kiss the warring leaders’ feet, urging them to restore peace to South Sudan.
“It saddens me that we continue to hear about such tragedies. More was hoped for and prayed for. We had hoped for more. You promised more, didn’t you? “Welby addressed the gathering leaders.
Kiir said in his address that his administration was completely dedicated to cementing peace in South Sudan.
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