The tenth anniversary of South Sudan’s birth as an independent nation “calls to mind your past struggles and points with hope to the future,” reads a letter addressed to South Sudan’s political leaders, which was signed by Pope Francis, Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury, and Jim Wallace, this year’s Moderator of the Church of Scotland’s General Assembly.
In their letter, the Christian leaders note that South Sudan is “blessed with immense potential,” and encourage the country’s political leaders to make “even greater efforts to enable [their] people to enjoy the full fruits of independence” — efforts that “may require personal sacrifice” on the part of South Sudan’s leaders.
While acknowledge that “some small progress” has been made since a previous letter sent at Christmas, the authors lament that many South Sudanese “continue to live in fear and uncertainty.”
“Much more needs to be done in South Sudan,” they write, “to shape a nation that reflects God’s kingdom, in which the dignity of all is respected and all are reconciled.”
The letter recalls, “with joy and thanksgiving,” the meeting of heads of various South Sudanese factions at the Vatican in spring of 2014, where they attended a spiritual retreat with Archbishop Welby before meeting with the Pope. The authors say they hope the leaders will live up to the commitments and promises they made on that occasion, “so that it will be possible for us to visit and celebrate with you and your people in person, honouring your contributions to a nation that fulfills the hopes of 9 July 2011.”
The path to peace in South Sudan has been challenging. President Salva Kiir and former opposition leader Riek Machar agreed to peace deal in August 2018, formally ending a period of civil war that lead to the deaths of around 400,000 people. In February 2020, the two entered into a power sharing agreement that led to the formation of a unity government.
However, the country still faces political instability amid an ongoing humanitarian crisis made worse by Covid-19 pandemic.