By Joseph Green-Bishop
Texas Metro News Correspondent
At the conclusion of a three day peace mission Sunday in South Sudan, the world’s youngest democratic country, Pope Francis, implored its leaders and its people to discard weapons of violence and build a prosperous nation on the African continent.
“I beg of you to accept four simple words,” Pope Francis said to tens of thousands of people who attended a mass. “No more of this” violence that has engulfed South Sudan for nearly a decade, said Pope Francis, who once washed and kissed the feet of the leaders of Sudanese warring factions during a peace summit in Rome.
The pope’s visit to Sudan and his efforts to bring about peace were applauded by Dr. Constance Hilliard, a leading academic authority on Africa, and a professor at the University of North Texas in Denton.
“The Pope made use of his global platform and moral authority to go further than just call for peace among the world’s poor,” said Dr. Hilliard, a graduate of Harvard University . “He called out the world’s great powers for fostering an arms trade that exploits conflict,” she added. Four hundred thousand people have met violent deaths in South Sudan during the years of unrest, according to figures from the United Nations.
Dr. Hilliard, a Fulbright Scholar, who has lived and worked in Africa, said that the Pope was sensitive to ethnic conflict that began in South Sudan in 2013 after the country of approximately ten million peopled separated from Sudan, its northern neighbor. More than eighty percent of South Sudanese exist on less than $2.00 per day, according to the World Bank.
The Pope’s visit to South Sudan, called the “Pilgrimage of Peace,” was sponsored by the Catholic Church, The Anglican Church and the Scottish Presbyterian Church. The three are the largest denominations in a country in which the overwhelming percentage of people are Christians.
In a speech at the presidential palace, Pope Francis lamented the conditions in South Sudan before an audience of senior government officials. Corruption, indifference and an unequal distribution of capital were destroying the lives of the Sudanese people, Pope Francis declared.
Blessed with an abundance of natural resources, particularly oil, South Sudan remains one of the world’s poorest country. Civil War, corruption and external exploitation have prevented the country from fully developing or improve living standards for its people, Dr. Hilliard and other scholars believe.
In remarks before living the country, Pope Francis called external forces in undeveloped countries like South Sudan “the biggest plague affecting the world.”