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Pope Francis unlikely to visit S Sudan due to insecurity

Pope Francis unlikely to visit S Sudan due to insecurity
Pope Francis | Credit | Courtesy

Pope Francis is likely to cancel his anticipated visit to South Sudan for the second time over the continued insecurity in parts of the country.

The Holy Father in a tweet expressed concern over the conflict in the Upper Nile Region where dozens have been reportedly killed and tens of thousands displaced.

The fighting alarmed the pontiff ahead of his visit set for February 2023.

“I am following with sorrow and concern the news from South Sudan about the violent clashes over recent days,” he tweeted on Sunday.

The ongoing conflict in Upper Nile State is estimated to have displaced over 9,000 people, mostly in Fashoda and Manyo counties in the last one month.

The UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, says at least 20,000 people have fled since August. A number which has increased to 40, 000 people according to UNICEF Monday’s Press Release.

The violence in the region has sustained killings, injuries, gender-based violence, abductions, extortion, pillaging, and torching of property.

As he prepares to undertake an ecumenical pilgrimage of peace to South Sudan and Congo, Pope Francis appeals for prayers for South Sudan as armed conflict escalates, causing grave human right violations.

“Let us pray to the Lord for peace and national reconciliation, so that the attacks may cease and that civilians may always be respected,” he said.

Last week, the Office of the President said the C-in-C had directed the Chief of Defense Forces to deploy unified forces in the region to stop the fighting.

But the Upper Nile Religious Initiative for Peace and Reconciliation disagreed, saying “Violence does not solve violence.”

The clergies argued that sending more soldiers to the ground in the name of stopping the fighting would not do any help, but rather worsen the situation.

“We don’t encourage violence because violence does not solve the issues. it makes it more complicated. So we don’t call to settle the issue using the same means – violence with violence. It does not solve it,” Fr. Paulina Tipo Deng, chairperson, told reporters in Juba on Thursday.

In July, Pope Francis canceled a planned visit to South Sudan, citing health issues.