Pope Francis met South Sudanese children displaced by conflict and heard of the hardships of their lives in camps.
The event was held on 4th February 2023 in a prefabricated structure holding about 2,500 people.
The meeting was held testimonies from displaced children including Johnson Juma Alex, 14, who has been living in a camp since 2014 after fleeing his hometown because of fighting.
After hearing their stories Pope, Francis told the children that, the future cannot lie in refugee camps, telling them they would build a better future for the world’s newest country by replacing ethnic hatred with forgiveness.
“As you said, there is a need for all children to have the opportunity to go to school and to have a field to play football,” he said.
Pope Francis said hope for South Sudan’s future rests in children from different ethnic groups, who have suffered and are still suffering, yet who do not want to respond to evil with more evil.
“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.
“You bear the burden of a painful past, yet you never stop dreaming of a better future. In our meeting today, we would like to give wings to your hope,” he said.
According to UN report, there are 2.2 million internally displaced people in South Sudan, out of a total population of about 11.6 million, and another 2.3 million have fled the country as refugees, according to the United Nations.
The UNHCR has also reacted through twitter that, ten years after their independence and four years after signing the most recent peace agreement, people in South Sudan continue to face deteriorating humanitarian conditions.
The UN Refugees Agency, in South Sudan have Shared news, stories and voices of refugees and other forcibly displaced.
Joung-ah Ghedini-Williams UNHCR South Sudan Retweeted that, despite mobility issues, Pope Francis visited the young country with a history of conflict and tragedy that no Western leader has yet visited to call for peace.
“No Western leader has ever made a public visit, leaving many South Sudanese feeling forgotten. But not by Pope Francis. He arrived in the capital, Juba, on Friday, after visiting the Democratic Republic of Congo an African tour intended to shine a light on some of the continent’s most troubled yet ignored countries.
Pope Francis immediately issued an urgent appeal to the country’s leaders whose violent squabbling plunged South Sudan into civil war in 2013, and continues to sow chaos despite a shaky peace deal,” He Said.
Thai lives in Bentiu IDP camp in South Sudan, which hosts more than 100K people forced to flee. Civil society and faith-based groups, are working across S. Sudan to heal trauma and unite communities. He also got opportunity to meet Pope Francis.
His message is: “To the people of South Sudan, let us unite… we are brothers and sister, we need to spread the message of peace and forgiveness. Displaced people everywhere deserve the world’s attention and support.”
Terez lives in the Malakal Protection of Civilians site in Upper Nile, South Sudan, which is home to 40K people feeling violence. Her tweet message is, South Sudan from all regions must stick together abs stop the conflict, to focus on providing a better future and a good education for their children.
She explained further that, Conflict and insecurity, fueled by intercommunal violence, crime and wide scale impunity, continue to be among the main drivers of humanitarian needs in South Sudan. Armed conflict in South Sudan’s Upper Nile state has displaced at least 20,000 people since August, with some forced to flee up to four times. More than half the population of South Sudan, around 6.6 million people, are severely hungry.
UNHCR also predict that, in 2023, 9.4 million people will be in need of humanitarian assistance, 76% of South Sudan’s population, and an increase of 500,000 people from 2022.
Sara Beysolow Nyanti, the Humanitarian Coordinator in South Sudan, said, “Something has to change in South Sudan because the number of people in need continues to rise every year and the resources continue to decrease.”
The resident U.N. humanitarian coordinator in South Sudan, Sara Beysolow Nyanti, raised the issue of pervasive sexual violence against women and girls, who she said risked being violated while carrying out their daily routines.
The pope responded by calling on everyone in South Sudan to respect women.
“Please, protect, respect, appreciate and honor every woman, every girl, young woman, mother and grandmother. Otherwise, there will be no future,” he said, to cheers and ululations from the audience.
Archbishop Welby, leader of the global Anglican Communion, earlier spoke about South Sudan’s many problems at a service at Juba’s Anglican cathedral, where the congregation of thousands spilled out into the streets.