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Pope, Archbishop, and Moderator drop hints to South Sudan leadership

12 July 2021

Personal sacrifice needed ‘to shape a nation that reflects God’s kingdom’


The President of South Sudan, Salva Kiir, addresses the nation on the tenth anniversary of its independence, on Friday, at the State House in Juba

The President of South Sudan, Salva Kiir, addresses the nation on the tenth anniversary of its independence, on Friday, at the State House in Juba

POLITICIANS in South Sudan must be prepared to make personal sacrifices to reverse the fear and uncertainty that continues to grip the nation, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Pope Francis, and Church of Scotland Moderator, Lord Wallace, have warned.

In a joint letter to political leaders in South Sudan on the tenth anniversary of its independence (Comment, 9 July), published on Friday, Archbishop Welby, Pope Francis, and Lord Wallace write that “small progress” had been made in the country’s first decade. “Sadly, your people continue to live in fear and uncertainty, and lack confidence that their nation can indeed deliver the ‘justice, liberty and prosperity’ celebrated in your national anthem.

“Much more needs to be done in South Sudan to shape a nation that reflects God’s kingdom, in which the dignity of all is respected and all are reconciled (2 Corinthians 5). This may require personal sacrifice from you as leaders — Christ’s own example of leadership shows this powerfully — and today we wish you to know that we stand alongside you as you look to the future and seek to discern afresh how best to serve all the people of South Sudan.”

South Sudan celebrated its independence on 9 July 2011, after a 22-year civil war with the north (Sudan) in which more than two million people died (News, 15 July 2011). In 2013, a five-year civil war erupted after clashes between supporters of the President and his former deputy (News, 20 December 2013). Hundreds of thousands of people died, millions were displaced, and, while warring leaders held protracted peace talks, people died of hunger in what the UN described as a man-made famine.

Last week, bishops in South Sudan expressed their disappointment at the loss of direction in the country, and the “disillusionment, bitterness, and uncertainty” that had followed (News, 9 July).

In their letter, Archbishop Welby, Pope Francis, and Lord Wallace recall the 2019 meeting of political and religious leaders from South Sudan at the Vatican (News, 12 April 2019), and pray “that those promises will shape your actions, so that it will become possible for us to visit and celebrate with you and your people in person, honouring your contributions to a nation that fulfils the hopes of 9 July 2011.

“In the meantime, we invoke upon you and all in South Sudan God’s blessings of fraternity and peace.”

The three faith leaders also refer back to their first letter, last Christmas, in which they prayed that South Sudan politicians might experience greater trust among them and be more generous to their people (News, 1 January).

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