April 13th, 2019 | Updated on June 25th, 2022
Pope Francis stunned the world, when he bent down to kiss the feet of South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar.
His dramatic gesture was aimed at putting an end to the civil war that has raged on in South Sudan for years.
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It happened after an unprecedented retreat at the Vatican on April 12.
“I am asking you as a brother to stay in peace. I am asking you with my heart, let us go forward. There will be many problems but they will not overcome us. Resolve your problems,” Francis said this to two warring leaders.
The world is anxiously watching the latest development in Sudan as the Thursday’s coup is threatening to plunge the country into chaos. This is serious implications for South Sudan as well.
Salva Kiir and Riek Machar are at the root of South Sudan’s civil war which has left 383,000 people dead since December 2013.
When predominantly Christian South Sudan got independence from Sudan, a Muslim dominated area, it was hoped that two countries would now live in peace. However, newly independent South Sudan was torn apart by the Dinka-Nuer ethnic strife.
Kiir is a Dinka, while his former deputy belonged to Nuer ethnic group.
In September 2018, two sides signed a power-sharing deal which is hoped to rebuild the country which has seen Africa’s worst refugee crisis since the 1994 Rwanda genocide. The country has seen 400,000 people being killed and 12 million people being uprooted by the ethnic strife, triggered by Dinka’s decision to fire his deputy Machar from the vice presidency.
Pope Francis’s reaction ” is one further step to demystify one of the world’s most secretive institutions, and after the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), popes have made gradual efforts to bring the office into the modern era.”
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Pope Francis Kisses Feet Of South Sudan Leaders, Urging Them To Keep Peace