(Vatican Radio) In his annual discourse to diplomats on Monday in the Vatican, Pope
Francis had words for so many innocent people in Africa who have been forced to flee
famine, violence and oppression.
In parts of Africa – he said – “Christians are called to give witness to God’s love and mercy. We must never cease to do good, even when it is difficult and demanding, and when we endure acts of intolerance if not genuine persecution”.
One of the nations the Pope mentioned is South Sudan, where – he pointed out - “political instability has lately led to many deaths and a new humanitarian crisis”.
Bishop Barani Eduardo Hiiboro Kussala of the Diocese of Tombura-Yambio in South Sudan says he is grateful for the Pope’s words and for his prayers. He makes an impassioned plea for prayers as the violence in his nation continues to reap death and destruction and as the humanitarian situation becomes more and more critical.
Vatican Radio’s Linda Bordoni spoke to Bishop Hiiboro about his appeal to all people of goodwill to participate in whatever way they can to bring peace to South Sudan and relief to the tens of thousands of displaced people who are fleeing for their lives and are in desperate need of basic necessities like food, water, shelter and medicines. Many he says do not even have clothes on their backs as violence came upon them unexpectedly and they are hiding in the bushes in desperation.
Listen to the interview…
“The suffering of the people is terrible. Women and children are exposed to a situation they didn’t expect. As I speak to you there are a lot of children in the forests, in the bushes, in a very difficult situation”.
Bishop Hiiboro explains that his diocese in Western Equatoria State is not close to the battlefields, but he says they are receiving displaced people. “After prayers on Sunday as we launched the “21 days of prayer for peace” project, in which the Christian community is praying, fasting, raising money and collecting necessities for the people in need”. As he personally went to take some of the goods to some displaced people, when he met them he says: “Tears came to my eyes when I saw those babies, there were pregnant women and women with babies and older people who are not able to run…”
And, he says, this situation is only what shows at the tip of the iceberg because “I know there are thousands suffering from the conflict. We are praying so that hostilities cease, so the war may stop, so that we can get to the table of negotiations, so that humanitarian corridors may be opened to support these people in need. I worry that if this continues for the next two or three weeks the situation will be even more desperate…
Bishop Hiiboro says the situation came upon the people suddenly “we did not expect that the country was going to go to war in this scale. He says South Sudan was a gift from God “because we had long years of war and suffering and loss of life. Some 4.5 million people died in the second war and may others are unaccounted for”. So – he says “with this war upon us the dioceses of South Sudan decided to conduct an intensive crusade for peace: “21 days for peace”.
He explains that the project includes prayers and fasting as well as the collection of money and material for those in desperate situation. It also entails speaking to people who can make a difference to the situation.
Bishop Hiiboro also says the nation needs to embrace its past in order to avoid repeated mistakes.
He speaks of the disastrous humanitarian situation that has been horribly aggravated in three or four states and expresses cautious hope for the ongoing meetings between UN mediators and representatives of the opposition.
Bishop Hiiboro speaks at length of the role and the responsibility of the media, especially of the local media which has, in some instances, added fuel to the fire of hatred with its reports of violence and killing which have in turn stoked ethnic rivalry instead of setting the tone for peace.
He reiterates that the international community has a great responsibility: the independence is all very well and easy in a way; the difficulties arise when it comes to building a nation. It is a long process. So he appeals to the international community not to ignore the nation. So much money has been invested in its independence, and now he says “we need its backing and its help”. Attention must not be limited to the two fighting sides. “It requires a broad-based bottom-up consultation for a permanent solution to the problems of South Sudan. And the only body that can do this is the international community with the involvement of the local communities. And we need humanitarian support… “