Pope Francis, Archbishop Justin Welby and the Rt. Rev. Dr Iain Greenshields met on Saturday afternoon with Internally Displaced People who live in protected camps that are spread in different parts of South Sudan.
John Baptist Tumusiime, Vatican News staffer – Juba, South Sudan.
Pope Francis, Archbishop Justin Welby and the Rt. Rev. Iain Greenshields met on Saturday afternoon with representatives of Internally Displaced People who live in protected camps that are spread in different parts of South Sudan.
Make peace a priority
The meeting took place in Freedom Hall in the centre of the capital, Juba. When the civil conflict broke out in 2013, many people fled to the United Nations camps for safety, which were later transformed into protected camps for those who were fleeing the fighting. The meeting opened with a prayer led by the Moderator of the Church of Scotland, the Rt. Rev. Dr Greenshields, who prayed to God to console and comfort the displaced people in their suffering and for South Sudan’s leaders to listen to the cries of the people and make peace their first priority because its absence generates injustices and lack of integral development.
Loss of hope in the camps
Three children from different camps narrated their experience of suffering in the camps, including their lack of access to quality education, and appealed to the three church leaders to use their influence to convince the country’s political leaders to work for peace. The exact number of displaced people in South Sudan is not known, but humanitarian agencies say they are in hundreds of thousands. The camp I visited on Friday at the periphery of the city of Juba has about 33,000 people. It is overcrowded, and lacking the basics such as food, safe sanitation, clean water, schools, and health services. Suffering was written on the faces of its residents as they wrestle with poverty. Many have lost hope that they will ever return to their villages and live normal lives because their homes and pieces of land have been occupied by other people.
A lack of material resources
Humanitarian organisations including the Catholic Charity, Caritas, are helping but have limited resources to provide enough for everybody.
In his reflection, Pope Francis renewed his forceful and heartfelt appeal to end the conflict in South Sudan and to resume the peace process with more commitment so that violence can end and people can live in dignity. He stressed that only with peace, stability and justice can there be development and social reintegration. He explained that the future cannot lie in refugee camps and that there is need for children to grow as an open society and for different groups to mingle and to form a single people by embracing the challenges of integration. This means, he said, that South Sudanese accept one another and discover the beauty of a reconciled fraternity and experience the challenge of freely shaping one’s own future along with that of the entire community.
Listen to the audio version of John Baptist’s report here.