By Vatican News
Eight years ago, South Sudan became the world’s newest country. Hopes ran high for the young nation after declaring its independence from Khartoum, which had ruled it for decades.
Those hopes were short-lived. Since 2013, a devastating civil war has claimed nearly 400,000 lives, driven some 4 million people from their homes, and caused over 2 million to flee to neighboring countries in search of food and safety.
There have been various attempts to revitalize peace in the region. After the signing of a peace agreement in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in September 2018, dialogue between conflicting parties experienced a decisive moment during the spiritual retreat, organized by Pope Francis at the Casa Santa Marta in the Vatican last April. That meeting brought together leaders of South Sudan’s government and members of the opposition.
Pope Francis’ initiative
Pope Francis urged the country’s leaders to find common ground: “Seek what unites you”, he said, “beginning with the fact that you belong to one and the same people”. The Pope told the leaders that God’s gaze is upon them, as is the gaze of their people. That gaze, he said, “expresses their ardent desire for justice, reconciliation and peace”. “People are wearied, exhausted by past conflicts”, the Pope concluded. “Remember that with war, all is lost”, he said.
Sant’ Egidio Community initiative
Further peace talks took place this week in Rome, under the auspices of the Sant’Egidio Community. Speaking at a press conference, the Vice President of the National Pre-Transitional Committee, Gabriel Chang, thanked the Community of Sant'Egidio “for hosting these days of reflection and dialogue on the future of our country, still marked by divisions and hostility”. He described the Rome meeting as “an important opportunity that has allowed us to work together for peace, between different political forces, and makes the impossible possible".