President Salva Kiir and Riek Machar signed the long awaited final peace agreement in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on in September 2018. The deal hasn't been implemented since then to bring a formal end to the war in the long-suffering country/ Photo: South Sudan Presidential Press Unit

Pope, others write to South Sudan’s leaders as country marks 10th independence anniversary

Africa’s newest nation, South Sudan, gained independence on 9 July 2011. It was an event that marked a turning point after decades of wars for liberation from Arab-dominated Sudan and which was celebrated in sub-Sahara Africa and across the globe by friends of the long-suffering people of the country.

Unfortunately, the first decade of South Sudan’s independence has been marked by instability, civil war and ethnic violence that have left 7.2 million people in the country with acute food insecurity, 1.62 million people internally displaced and tens of thousands of deaths.

Pope Francis, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and Church of Scotland Moderator Jim Wallace have written to South Sudan’s political leaders on the 10th anniversary of South Sudanese independence, calling on them to make personal sacrifices to fulfill the hope of their people.

Read the text of their letter:

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Your Excellencies,

Joint Message for the 10th anniversary of the Independence of South Sudan

On this day marking ten years since South Sudan’s Independence, we send you our cordial good wishes, conscious that this anniversary calls to mind your past struggles and points with hope to the future. Your nation is blessed with immense potential, and we encourage you to make even greater efforts to enable your people to enjoy the full fruits of independence.

When we last wrote to you at Christmas, we prayed that you might experience greater trust among yourselves and be more generous in service to your people. Since then, we have been glad to see some small progress. 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 (cf 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.

We recall with joy and thanksgiving the historic meeting of the political and religious leaders of South Sudan at the Vatican in 2019 and the weighty promises made on that occasion. We 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.

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