Pope Francis has said he is willing to visit South Sudan to broker a peace deal if he is invited by the war-torn nation’s government.
Church leaders from the Africa’s youngest nation, including Archbishop Paolino Loro of Juba, Rev. Daniel Bul of the Episcopal Church of Sudan and Rev. Peter Marrow, the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Sudan, sent an invite to the Pope on Thursday when they led a delegation from the nation to Vatican.
“The Pope said he is ready to come to South Sudan. President Kiir is also very much in favour of a visit,” La Stampa quoted Loro saying.
The invitation to the oil-rich country comes four months after Pope Francis sent Cardinal Peter Turkson, the president of the Pontifical Council of Justice and Peace, to meet President Salva Kiir in July after fresh violence broke in the capital, Catholic New Service reported.
The cardinal delivered two letters from the pontiff, separately addressed to Kiir and his deposed vice-president, Riek Machar.
The two letters appealed to the two to step up peace efforts by urging their troops to a truce.
In December last year, Pope Francis made a similar visit to Central African Republic and urged Muslims and Christians to reject religiously-fueled hatred in the nation that has experienced a civil war since the military coup in March 2013.
The violence between Muslim Seleka militias and Christians anti-Balaka militias started in March 2013 when Michel Djotodia, a Muslim toppled Francois Bozize, the former Christian president of the tiny West African nation, Breitbart News reported.
South Sudan has been in a civil war since December 2013, after Kiir accused Machar of trying to overthrow him.
Machar however returned to the nation in April, as the vice-president in a peace deal signed in August last year.
In July, violence fresh fighting broke between government troops and forces loyal to Machar in Juba. Hundreds of people have been killed since then and at least one million refugees fled into neighboring Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of Congo and CAR, according to data by United Nations High Commission for Refugees.
Last month, Machar, who has since been replaced by Taban Deng as the vice-president, called for war against the government.