Pope Francis roots for divine intervention to heal Upper Nile State

Pope Francis roots for divine intervention to heal Upper Nile State
Pope Francis., the Head of the Roman Catholic Church, [Photo: Reuters]

Pope Francis of the Catholic Church expressed concerns over the escalating inter-communal violence in South Sudan’s Upper Nile State, calling for divine intervention as an urgent remedy. The appeal by the pontiff on Sunday came at a time when he was preparing to undertake an ecumenical pilgrimage of peace to the East African country. 

In a statement issued by the Vatican, Pope Francis emphasised the importance of turning to the “Lord of peace” to heal the Upper Nile State’s ills.

“Let us pray to the Lord for peace and national reconciliation, that the attacks will cease and that civilians will always be respected,” the Pope noted.

His appeal came immediately after the UN Refugee Agency warned of the worsening humanitarian situation, caused by the intensifying armed conflict, that has displaced tens of thousands of vulnerable people ahead of the Pope’s scheduled ecumenical pilgrimage for peace in South Sudan in February 2023.

On Friday, religious leaders from the Upper Nile called on the leaders led by President Salva Kiir to end the conflict in the northern state.

 Fr. Paulino Tipo led the clerics in condemning the continued violence in Upper Nile State.

“We, the pastors of different churches and members of the Upper Nile Religious Initiative for Peace and Reconciliation (UNRIPR), regret the tragic violent displacement of so many innocent people, especially women, children, and the elderly, caused by the tension in Upper Nile State,” stated Tipo.

“We condemn and reject such a senseless and unnecessary war among people of one nation who are supposed to be living in peace and harmony, collaborating together for their common good.”

They claimed that the violence had displaced thousands of civilians and claimed several lives.

The clerics appealed to the international community, including the African Union (AU), the United Nations, the Troika, and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), to step up for an immediate end to the horrific strife in the Upper Nile.

The UNHCR estimates that since August, the violence has increased, forcing at least 20,000 people to flee for their lives up to four times.

According to the organization, at least 3,000 individuals have also recently fled to neighbouring Sudan.

Tipo feared that the situation in Upper Nile would spiral out of control if nothing is done to permanently resolve it.

However, President Kiir revealed that he had ordered the deployment of unified forces in Upper Nile to protect civilians in a statement released by his office on Wednesday last week.

The priests said although they opt for dialogue as a means to resolve the dispute in the Upper Nile State, they respect the government’s decision to deploy forces in the area.

 “Always to put a fire, there is a fear always that it can go beyond that as it is taking place now,” Tipo said, “…It can extend from the Upper Nile to other places, and it could become something beyond control and bring the country again to a level where none of us will be happy to see.”