Yambio, South Sudan, May 3, 2019 / 16:10 pm
The president of the Sudanese Bishops’ Conference said he believes peace in South Sudan is possible, but the process will take patience and humility from both the leaders of the country the local communities.
Bishop Eduardo Kussala of Tombura-Yambio said the conference is grateful for and encouraged by the pope’s meeting with the leaders of opposing groups in South Sudan.
“We have tried to keep the momentum, to continue to work harder and make sure peace is actually in this country….It has again energized us” to serve the leaders and the people, he told CNA.
In April, South Sudan President Salva Kiir and former vice president Riek Machar met with the pope during a retreat at the Vatican. The pope hosted the retreat specifically for the leaders. In an unusual gesture, he kissed their feet as he pled for peace in the nation.
Shortly after South Sudan became an independent country in 2011, it was launched into a five-year civil war, which killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced millions more. The fighting has primarily taken place between those forces loyal to Kiir and rebel groups led by Machar.
Although these leaders have contributed to the country’s ongoing violence, said Kussala, the pope invited them to pray and spoke “to them from his heart.”
“[It] has humbled us and given us a strong message to our leaders that he is a pope kissing their feet that they should do the same for one another and for the people,” he said.
Kiir and Machar signed a tenuous peace agreement in September 2018, which the country’s Catholic bishops have called “fatally flawed” because it does not address the root causes of the conflict.