Pope Francis makes his way to neighboring South Sudan and brings an end to a sentimental trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo on Friday, February 3, 2023. South Sudan is another country that is constantly struggling to overthrow years of conflict and poverty.
The nation’s distress was demonstrated on the night before his arrival when around 27 people were inhumanely killed in South Sudan’s Central Equatoria state. This attack was an example of tit-for-tat violence between a local militia and cattle herders.
The pope is set to arrive in South Sudan on Friday from the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo, hoping to jolt a peace process aimed at ending a decade of conflict fought mostly on ethnic lines that have killed hundreds of thousands of people.
The 86-year-old bishop of Rome is on his third visit to sub-Saharan Africa since he became the pope in 2013. Pope was given an overjoyed welcome by a large number of people in the Congolese capital Kinshasa. However, he was also confronted with the reality of poverty, conflict, and hunger.
On 1 February 2023, he listened to the dreadful and upsetting stories of victims of war in eastern Congo, people who had witnessed the killings of their friends and close relatives. People also told the pope about being put through sexual slavery, forced cannibalism, and amputation.
A few weeks back, rebels associated with the Islamic State group, ADF (Allied Democratic Forces) bombed a Pentecostal church in Kasindi, in the Eastern Congo. Around 20 people were killed and many were wounded in this attack.
The pope expressed disgrace and labeled the recent outrages as war crimes. He also requested all the internal and external parties, who organize and command wars in Congo to exhaust the country’s vast mineral resources to stop feathering one’s nest with “money stained with blood.”
Eastern Congo has been hounded for years by conflict-driven to get sole control of deposits of gold, diamonds, and other precious metals between the rebels, government, and foreign invaders. The spillover and long knock-on effect from neighboring nation Rwanda’s 1994 genocide has also inflamed violence.
Pope Francis frequently returns to the area of conflict inflamed by “the poison of greed”. He keeps reminding the Congolese people and the wider world that they should become aware of the fact that people are more valuable than the minerals in the earth beneath them.
The Pope had a meeting with Congolese bishops in Kinshasa after which a farewell ceremony was held at the airport. His plane heading to Juba, the capital of South Sudan, is scheduled to depart at 0940 GMT. It will arrive in Juba around 1300 GMT.
For his whole visit to South Sudan, the Pope will be accompanied by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, Iain Greenshields, the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, and leader of the global Anglican Communion.
It is the first time that the three Christian leaders are going on a joint foreign trip. They are calling it a “pilgrimage of peace.”
History of South Sudan
South Sudan was divided from Sudan in 2011 and became an independent country after years of continuous north-south conflict. However, a civil war arouse in 2013, and a lot of casualties were reported.
A peace treaty was signed between the two main antagonists in 2018. Despite a peace treaty, hunger and violence still distress the country.
Pope Francis has wished to pay a visit to all the predominantly Christian countries for several years, but every time the trip had to be postponed because of the unsuitability and instability of the countries.