Pope tells IDPs in S. Sudan: ‘Keep your hope alive’
AUTHOR: Ibasi Patricia Tobs | PUBLISHED: February 6, 2023
Pope Francis meeting the Internally Displaced Persons at Freedom Hall in Juba
His Holiness Pope Francis has comforted the South Sudanese Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) to keep their hope intact for the peaceful South Sudan where stability, justice, social integration, and development will be cherished.
In a meeting with the IDPs during his three days papal visit in South Sudan, the Pontiff told the displaced mothers and young people ‘I would like to give wings to your hope,”
“I see your eyes, weary but bright, eyes that have not lost hope. I see your mouths, which have not lost the strength to pray and to sing. I see you with empty hands but hearts full of faith. You bear the burden of a painful past, yet you never stop dreaming of a better future…Hope and believe that now, even in the camps for displaced persons, where sadly you are forced to live due to the situation in your country, a new seed can sprout, as from the dry and barren soil – a new seed that will bear rich fruit,” pontiff comforted
Since the civil war broke out in 2013 between President Salva Kiir and his vice president Dr. Riak Machar, two years after the country gained its independence from Sudan; millions of South Sudanese fled into Protection of Civilians sites (POCs) and Refugees camps and many continued to flee due to continuous armed conflicts, subnational violence and floorings across the country.
Mothers, children and elderly people had to leave their lands and abandon their villages, homes and moved into sadly experience as refugees in the neighboring countries.
“Great numbers of children born in recent years have known only the reality of camps for displaced persons. They have no memory of what it means to have a home; they are losing their connection with their native land, their roots, and their traditions,’’ Pontiff said in sympathy
“That is why I want to renew my forceful and heartfelt appeal to end all conflict and to resume the peace process in a serious way.’’
The old pontiff Pope Francis has been praying and pleading with the South Sudanese leaders to stay in peace since 2019. His visit to Juba is a follow up of what he initiated in Rome.
In 2019 during a two-days spiritual retreat at the Vatican, Pope Francis kissed the feet of South Sudan’s leaders, begging them to live in peace.
“I am asking you as a brother to stay in peace. I am asking you with my heart,” He pleaded with them.
In an interaction with over 2,000 displaced persons in Juba on 4th February 2023, he asked the group to be the seeds of hope and write the new chapter of South Sudan.
“May you, young people of different ethnicities, write the first pages of this new chapter. Although conflict, violence and hatred have replaced good memories on the first pages of the life of this republic, you must be the ones to rewrite its history as a history of peace.”
Pope seeing the number of children and women displaced and disadvantaged by the conflict and climate factors, He appealed for respect of mothers and children.
“I ask you, I ask all the people of these land, to ensure that women are protected, respected, valued, and honored. Please, protect, respect, appreciate and honor every woman, every girl, young woman, mother, and grandmother. Otherwise, there will be no future,” he added.
After nearly a decade of conflict, South Sudan continues to grapple with sporadic violence, chronic food insecurity and the devastating impact of major flooding despites the efforts toward implementing the peace agreement.
According to UN office for humanitarian affairs (OCHA), South Sudan bears the largest displacement crisis in Africa.
Over 2.2M South Sudanese are displaced within the country while closely 2.3M have fled to neighboring countries.
In addition to displacement, Over 8.9 million people (including 4.6 million children) are estimated to require humanitarian assistance in 2023