The last reports from U.N. and FAO are not optimistic. The first report, issued on February by the U.N’s Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, reported that ongoing human rights violations and violence against civilians could amount to war crimes. “There is a confirmed pattern of how combatants attack villages, plunder homes, take women as sexual slaves and then set homes alight often with people in them,” said Yasmin Sooka, the Commission’s chairperson.
Another report, issued the same days by the U.N’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the United Nations’ Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Program (WFP) confirmed the increase in the people living “food insecure” in South Sudan (an increase of 13% since the start of 2018). As part of the worsening situation, malnutrition levels in South Sudan are “already critical and threaten to worsen, with some 860,000 children under age 5 severely malnourished,” the United Nations reported.
In addition, the country’s Roman Catholic bishops affirmed the pessimism in a Pastoral Message that was as much a warning about the lack of implementation of the latest peace agreement signed by warring parties as it was a policy recommendation to the nation’s leaders. “The ‘peace’ which is being spoken of is not a true and lasting peace,” the bishops said at the conclusion of a two-day meeting that ended Feb. 28 in the capital of Juba. “We fear that this peace agreement is fatally flawed in itself and cannot bring true peace….”
Given these warnings, the continuation of the church’s humanitarian and pastoral efforts in South Sudan is imperative. People need better living conditions, self-sustainable agriculture, access to education, improved health conditions and moral and religious support. Solidarity with South Sudan continues to its presence in the youngest country in the world, training leaders, nurses, teachers, midwives and farmers, because “we strongly believe that our capacity building efforts and multi-ethnic communities are seeds for a better future in South Sudan, where peace and reconciliation are the roots of a new peaceful country.”
To reach this important target, the closeness of Pope Francis to South Sudan is of great support and a continuous incentive for our activities.
Only a few days ago, Pope Francis expressed again the wish to visit South Sudan, and this event could be regarded as a sign of his closeness to the people and encouragement in the peace process.