February 7, 2023 // National

Displaced Persons Meeting Pope Underscore South Sudan’s Overlapping Crises

By Justin McLellan

ROME (CNS) — Africa’s largest displacement crisis has seen nearly 4.5 million people flee their homes due to deadly civil conflicts and environmental disasters in South Sudan. Pope Francis was scheduled to meet with some of them on Feb. 4 during his three-day “ecumenical pilgrimage” to the country with Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury and Reverend Iain Greenshields, Moderator of the Church of Scotland. Since 2013, violence ranging from concentrated attacks between rivaling ethnic groups to full-on civil war has gripped the world’s youngest nation, which declared its independence in 2011. A peace agreement was signed between the two largest warring parties in 2015 only to fall apart a year later. A revitalized peace agreement was signed in 2018. “There is a peace agreement, but there is still active subnational violence,” Charlotte Hallqvist, an officer of the U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, in South Sudan, told Catholic News Service on Feb. 2. “Ethnic conflicts are on the rise.”

A group of internally displaced people arrive by boat at Malakal riverside seeking safety at the Malakal Protection of Civilians (PoC) site in Upper Nile State, South Sudan, Dec. 3, 2022. The group of mainly women, children and the elderly are among at least 20,000 people displaced by armed conflict in the region since August this year. (CNS photo/Charlotte Hallqvist, UNHCR)

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