SOUTH SUDAN – Pope sends special envoy to pursue peace
Pope Francis has sent the Ghanaian president of the Pontifical Council, Cardinal Peter Turkson, as his special envoy to pursue peace in war-torn South Sudan. His mission is to urge for an end to violence in South Sudan and to help establish dialogue and trust between the warring parties.
Cardinal Turkson went to Juma, the nation’s capital, this week to support the archbishop there. He also brought with him a letter from the Pope which he handed to the country’s leaders – President Salva Kiir and Vice President Riek Machar who represent the different ethnic groups. The cardinal said that the peace process has been derailed by recent events but the President maintains the course can be resumed.
We brought them the greetings of the Pope, his solidarity, two letters he had addressed to the President and to the Vice President – the two protagonists of the conflict” Turkson says. The Cardinal declared his aim was “to try to get them to come together at some point, to see if we could facilitate a reconciliation, to help them build some trust and confidence in each other”.
Despite the current cease-fire in Juba, the threat of more violence continues to loom large. “To put it mildly: the situation is tough” said the Vatican official. He said the violence which started on the 5th anniversary of the country’s independence is still recurring intermittently, causing a lot of deaths.
Cardinal Turkson expressed grief at the effect the recent violence had on the civilian population, who once again had to flee to save their lives, leaving their homes to be looted, occupied or destroyed. “A lot of the women and children and even men have sought refuge in Churches and in schools – and that is where they live – and the priests and brothers and nuns try to take care of them as best as they can” he said.
The cardinal stated that the situation is desperate and security levels are low. The displaced population is living in the open and in classrooms exposed to mosquito bites so there is malaria, dysentery, “there’s even talk about cholera in some areas”.
Stressing the urgent need for help especially medication and food supplies, he said that he already contacted the Vatican’s charity council, Cor Unum, to see what assistance can be organized in terms of medication. He expressed hope that upon his return to Rome it will be possible to send some concrete aid back to the archbishop “as a help from the side of the Holy See”.
Cardinal Turkson concluded on a positive note, saying that the authorities he met with have promised to do their best to put a program of reform on course towards elections in 2018.