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Catholic clerics seek Pope’s intervention into South Sudan ‘forgotten war’

Juba, South Sudan,

28 May 2021 – The catholic clerics in South Sudan have teased Pope Francis to visit the country and remind politicians of the dreadful consequences of the ‘forgotten war’ on long-suffering South Sudanese.

Catholic clerics seek Pope’s intervention into South Sudan ‘forgotten war’
Jesuit Fr. Augustine Ekeno, a priest at St. Teresa parish in the Rumbek Diocese and director of the Multi-Educational and Agricultural Jesuit Institute of South Sudan (Courtesy of Augustine Ekeno)

The clerics voiced their concerns to the Vatican in the spate of attacks that targeted aid workers and religious leaders in different parts of South Sudan in recent months.

Fr. Jean Baptiste Musiitwa, a bishop of the Wau Diocese said though church leaders were doing all they can curb the rampant insecurity, there was a need for international intervention.

“The burden of changing the situation on the ground depends not on South Sudanese, for on their own they cannot bring about peace,” Musiitwa was quoted by the National Catholic Reporter, an Italian newspaper to have said.

Musiitwa, who also serves as the principal of Loyola Secondary School in the diocese added that “It is the extensive international pressure that can inflict a cost on the leaders to speak to them about the joy of peace.”

The cleric said a visit by the Pope would magnify the South Sudan “forgotten war” to the world adding that the papal visit would also remind the country and the world of the work needed to be done.

“It is a war that has been swept under the carpet, and it is right and fitting that Pope Francis comes to remind the people of South Sudan and the world the work that remains to be done in the search of comprehensive peace,” said Musiitwa.

Earlier in May, Christian Calassare, an Italian missionary installed as a bishop in Rumbek was shot in the legs at his residence by unidentified gunmen. As Calassare was receiving medication in Kenya, his caretaker Reverend Mathew Remijio was robbed.

The phenomena have created an environment of fear, residents say.

“Fear is part of life,” said Fr. James Oyet Latansio, a Catholic Priest and General Secretary of the South Sudan of Churches, was quoted by the National Catholic Reporter.

“Priests need to be in communities, where the faithful are, to serve the people, but when there is conflict, this poses a challenge,” Oyet explained.

Jesuit Fr. Augustine Ekeno, who serves at St. Teresa Parish in the Rumbek Diocese, said a papal visit would be a good chance for the various warring groups “to dialogue and to consider working together.”

Intercommunal tensions and natural disasters such as floods and the ongoing pandemic have worsened the economic situation of South Sudan with the country ranked among some of the poorest according to data released by the World Bank in May.

With the country marking 10 years of independence from Sudan in July, there are wider expectations that a lasting peace commitment by the leaders will bring better socio-economic fortunes for South Sudan.

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