“Ensure women are protected, respected, valued”: Pope Francis to South Sudanese

Some South Sudanese women during Holy Mass in Juba. Credit: ACI Africa

In his encounter with Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) during his second day in South Sudan, Pope Francis urged respect for and protection of women.

Addressing some 2,500 IDPs alongside the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the Moderator of the Church of Scotland, Rev. Dr. Iain Greenshields, in Juba on February 4, the Holy Father said the future of South Sudan depends on how women are treated.

“If mothers and women receive the proper opportunities, through their industriousness and their natural gift of protecting life, they will have the ability to change the face of South Sudan, to give it a peaceful and cohesive development!” Pope Francis said.

He added, “I ask all the people of these lands to ensure that women are protected, respected, valued and honored.” 

Credit: ACI Africa


“Please, protect, respect, appreciate and honor every woman, every girl, young woman, mother and grandmother. Otherwise, there will be no future,” he emphasized during the February 4 meeting that took place at Freedom Hall in South Sudan’s capital city, Juba.

During the meeting, a video showed IDP camps in South Sudan and interviews with refugees who spoke about fleeing their homes. 

The Holy Father’s remarks followed testimonies of three displaced children from camps in Bentiu, Malakal and Juba.

Sara Beysolow Nyanti, a representative of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), gave a presentation on the humanitarian situation in South Sudan, which she described as “worrying.”

“For over a decade, the South Sudanese people have experienced conflict, social and political instability, climate shocks, violence, displacement, food insecurity, lack of education opportunities, and access to health care systems,” Ms. Nyanti said.

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South Sudan has the largest refugee crisis in Africa, with 2 million IDPs due to conflict, insecurity, and environmental challenges, the U.N. Refugee Agency reports.

The report further indicates, “There are also more than 2 million South Sudanese refugees living in neighboring countries.”

Credit: ACI Africa

In her presentation, Ms. Nyanti said that an estimated 8 million people in South Sudan are expected to experience food insecurity in 2023.

However, she said, “There still are opportunities to support the affected communities in achieving their potential and transforming their country, and in particular women. Indeed, women are the key to this transformation.”


In his address, Pope Francis expressed his “closeness and affection” to all people suffering displacement in South Sudan due to violence, but also natural disasters.

“I am here with you, and I suffer for you and with you,” the Holy Father said, and continued, “Be seeds of hope, which make it possible for us already to glimpse the tree that one day, hopefully in the near future, will bear fruit.”

Credit: ACI Africa

The Pope further told the thousands of IDPs, “True, right now you are 'planted' where you don’t want to be, but precisely from this situation of hardship and uncertainty, you can reach out to those around you and experience that you all are rooted in the one human family.”

He called on young people in the world’s youngest nation to rewrite the history of their nation by learning from the experience of the elderly.

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“May you, young people of different ethnicities, write the first pages of this new chapter! Although conflict, violence and hatred have replaced good memories on the first pages of the life of this Republic, you must be the ones to rewrite its history as a history of peace!” Pope Francis said during his address to IDPs on February 4.

Jude Atemanke is a Cameroonian journalist with a passion for Catholic Church communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Buea in Cameroon. Currently, Jude serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.