“Courage to hope for peace”: IDPs in South Sudan Recalling Encounter with Pope Francis

Pope Francis met 2,500 internally displaced persons during his visit to Juba, South Sudan, on Feb. 4, 2023. Elias Turk/CNA

Days after interacting with Pope Francis, Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in South Sudan have said the encounter gave them “courage to hope for peace” in their country.

Pope Francis held a meeting with some 2,500 IDPs at Freedom Hall in South Sudan’s capital of Juba on February 4, the second day of his visit to the East-Central African nation.

The encounter also included prayers led by the Moderator of the Church of Scotland, Iain Greenshields and the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby who presided over the final blessing of participants in the February 4 event.

In a Wednesday, February 15 interview with ACI Africa, two IDPs who were part of the meeting with the Holy Father urged authorities in South Sudan to “put into practice the message of the religious leaders and bring peace to the nation.”

“We need peace to come so that we are able to go home and live our normal life,” Mary Nyamal told ACI Africa, and added, “The Holy Father’s visit gives us courage to hope for peace.”


“Our situation here is very bad because life here is not like you are in your house,” she lamented, and continued, “Our leaders should focus on the word of the Pope to help this country.”

IDPs, Nyamal said, “are the people going through hard times in life because life in the camps are very hard and we don't feel comfortable.”

“We have been in the camps for over five years now and we don’t know when we will go back home,” she said, and expressed the hope that “the meeting and blessings will help us to return to our homes.”

Another IDP, John Gatmai, echoed the hope for peace that Nyamal voiced. 

“My hope is that one day peace will come to my country because Pope Francis has come to listen and bless our people for peace.” Gatmai told ACI Africa February 15.

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“Life is very hard for us here, it’s time for us to go home,” he lamented, and appealed to South Sudanese political leaders to take the path of peace.

Gatmai said, “I hope our leaders will take his message and bring peace to us.”

South Sudan has reportedly the largest refugee crisis in Africa, with 2 million IDPs due to conflict, insecurity, and environmental challenges, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency. (UNHCR)

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

Patrick Juma Wani is a South Sudanese journalist with a great zeal and interest for Catholic Church related communication. Patrick holds a Diploma in Journalism and Mass Communication from Makerere Institute for Social Development (MISD) in Uganda. He has over 7 years of extensive experience in leading the development and implementation of media, advocacy, communication and multimedia strategy and operations, with an excellent track record of editorial leadership, budget management, and stakeholder outreach. He currently works as a Journalist for ACI Africa.