Pope Francis says South Sudan’s future depends on how it treats its women
JUBA, South Sudan — Pope Francis warned Saturday that South Sudan’s future depends on how it treats its women, as he highlighted their horrific plight in a country where sexual violence is rampant, child brides are common and the maternal mortality rate is the highest in the world.
On his second and penultimate day in Africa, Francis called for women and girls to be respected, protected and honored during a meeting in the South Sudanese capital Juba with some of the 2 million people who have been forced by fighting and flooding to flee their homes. Women, girls and children make up the majority of those displaced.
The encounter was one of the highlights of Francis’ three-day visit to the world’s youngest country and one of its poorest. Joined by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and the Presbyterian head of the Church of Scotland, Francis is on an historic ecumenical pilgrimage to draw global attention to the country’s plight and encourage its stalled peace process.
The aim of the three-way visit is to encourage South Sudan’s political leaders to implement a 2018 peace accord ending a civil war that erupted after the overwhelmingly Christian country gained independence from mostly Muslim Sudan in 2011.
Greeted by song and high-pitched ululation, Francis urged the hundreds of people gathered at Freedom Hall to be “seeds of hope,” that will soon bear fruit for the country of 12 million.
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