The Pope, Archbishop of Canterbury and Moderator of the Church of Scotland General Assembly have called on the leaders of South Sudan to halt the bloodshed after years of civil war.
The three Church leaders are on a historic ecumenical peace pilgrimage to the country at the invitation of President Salva Kiir Mayardit.
Addressing the country’s leaders in the capital, Juba, Pope Francis said that the peace process seemed to be “stagnant” as he urged South Sudan “to leave the time of war behind and let a time of peace dawn.”
“We undertook this ecumenical pilgrimage of peace after hearing the plea of an entire people that, with great dignity, weeps for the violence it endures, its persistent lack of security, its poverty and the natural disasters that it has experienced,” he said.
“Future generations will either venerate your names or cancel their memory, based on what you now do,” he added.
Archbishop Justin Welby said that the people of South Sudan were tired of the conflict but added that peace was within reach.
“When I remember the commitments that were made by you in 2019, I am grieved, I am sad that we still hear of such tragedy. We hoped and prayed for more. We expected more. You promised more,” he said.
“We cannot pick and choose parts of a peace agreement. Every part must be done by every person. And that costs much.
“But, the answer to peace and reconciliation is not in visits like this, but it is in your hands.
“For the heroic and brave and courageous people of South Sudan, who fought for so long for their freedom and won it, are surely the people who have the courage to struggle for peace and reconciliation.
“It is within your reach. It is close to you. You can take it with the help of God.”
Iain Greenshields, the Moderator of the Church of Scotland General Assembly, told them that the world “needs churches and leaders who are generous of heart, liberal of love, and profligate with God’s grace”.
“These things make for peace,” he said.
South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011 but much of the past 13 years has been marred by civil war.
The fighting has left at least 400,000 people dead and caused the displacement of another two million people. Around 9.4 million people are estimated to be in need of humanitarian aid.
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