Peace has not taken root so far in the nascent state of South Sudan. It is a wish that the South Sudanese people have been aspiring to bring about since the attainment of independence.
The South Sudanese people including Christians, who account for 60 per cent of the population, anxiously look forward for the long-awaited Pope Francis’ visit to their country, in the hope that such an important visit would entrench peace in this country where damage has been wreaked following years of wars and instability.
With the Catholic leaders in the country continuing to hope that Pope Francis would be able to finally undertake a long-planned trip so that such a trip would blossom the roses of peace, Jesuit Fr. Augustine Ekeno, who serves at St. Teresa Parish in the Rumbek Diocese, said that such a visit “would bring some hope to the people in this country who have suffered for many years and who feel abandoned." An upcoming trip would furthermore highlight to the world the forgotten war in South Sudan in the hope of mustering international efforts to restore normalcy.
The Catholic Church has over the past years been striving to install peace in this troubled nation. Pope Francis has earlier pleaded for South Sudan peace. During his meeting with the leaders of the warring parties in the Vatican on April 11, 2019, the Pope said, "To the three of you who signed the Peace Agreement, I ask you, as a brother, remain in peace. I ask you from the heart. Let us move forward. There will be many problems, but don’t be afraid, go forward, resolve the problems”.
South Sudan President Salva Kiir had earlier said, “The government cannot do without the Church.” This assertion firmly confirms the vital role needed by the Catholic Church in this regard.
However, it is important to note the role played by Catholic Sant'Egidio Movement whose mediation led to the conclusion of the "Rome Declaration" which was signed in January 13, 2020. The cornerstones of the agreement calls for the solemn commitment to the cessation of hostilities starting at midnight on January 15, 2020; the commitment to discuss and evaluate together - in Sant'Egidio - mechanisms to resolve differences; and the guarantee for humanitarian organizations to be able to operate in the country in support of the civilian population.
With the remarkable efforts of the Catholic Church to bring about peace in South Sudan, it is hoped that Pope Francis will soon undertake a historic trip to South Sudan, as he did in Iraq, bearing in mind that the moment he step on the South Sudanese soil an eventual peace process will take place with the seeds of peace starting to grow marking the threshold of a bright future for the suffering South Sudanese people.