6 February 2024 | Speeches

MEETING WITH INTERNALLY DISPLACED PEOPLE

Dear brothers and sisters, good afternoon!

Thank you for your prayers, your testimonies and your singing! I have thought
about you for a long time, carrying in my heart the desire to meet you, to look
you in the eyes, to shake your hands and to embrace you: finally I am here,
together with the brothers with whom I share this pilgrimage of peace, to tell
you all my closeness, all my love. I am with you, I suffer for you and with you.
Joseph, you asked a decisive question: “Why are we suffering in the camp for
displaced persons?”. Why… Why are so many children and young people like you
staying there, instead of at school studying or in a nice outdoor place to play?
You yourself gave us the answer, saying that it is «because of the ongoing
conflicts in the country». It is precisely because of the devastation caused by
human violence, as well as that caused by the floods, that millions of our
brothers and sisters like you, including many mothers with children, have had to
leave their lands and abandon their villages, their homes. Unfortunately, in this
tortured country, being displaced or a refugee has become a common and
collective experience.
I therefore renew with all my strength the most heartfelt appeal to put an end to
any conflict, to take up the peace process again seriously so that the violence
will end and people can return to a dignified life. Only with peace, stability and
justice can there be development and social reintegration. Butwe can no longer
wait! An enormous number of children born in these years have known only the
reality of the camps for displaced persons, forgetting the atmosphere of home,
losing the link with their homeland, with their roots, with traditions.
The future cannot be in camps for displaced persons. There is a need, just as
you asked, Johnson, for all kids like you to have the opportunity to go to school
and also the space to play football! There is a need to grow as an open society,
mixing, forming a single people through the challenges of integration, also
learning the languages spoken throughout the country and not only in one’s own
ethnic group. There is a need to embrace the wonderful risk of knowing and
welcoming those who are different, to rediscover the beauty of a reconciled
fraternity and experience the priceless adventure of freely building one’s future
together with that of the entire community. And there is an absolute need to
avoid the marginalization of groups and the ghettoization of human beings. But
for all these needsthere is a need for peace. And we need the help of many,
everyone’s help.
So I would like to thank Deputy Special Representative Sara Beysolow Nyanti for
telling us that today is an opportunity for everyone to see what has been
happening in this country for years. Here, in fact, the largest refugee crisis on
the Continent continues, with at least four million displaced children of this land,
with food insecurity and malnutrition affecting two thirds of the population and
with forecasts that speak of a humanitarian tragedy that can worsen further
during the year. But I would like to thank you above all because you and many
others didn’t sit still and study the situation, but got busy. You, Madam, have
traveled the country, you have looked mothers in the eyes, witnessing the pain
they feel for the situation of their children; I was struck when she said that,
despite all that they suffer, the smile and hope have never faded from their
faces.
And I agree with what he said about them: mothers, women arethe key to
transforming the country: if they receive the right opportunities, through their
industriousness and their aptitude for safeguarding life, they will have the ability
to change the face of South Sudan, to give it a serene and cohesive
development! But, please, please all the inhabitants of these lands: women are
protected, respected, valued and honoured. Please: protect, respect, value and
honor every woman, child, girl, youth, adult, mother, grandmother. Without this
there will be no future.
And now, brothers and sisters, I look again at you, at your tired but luminous
eyes which have not lost hope, at your lips which have not lost the strength to
pray and to sing; I look to you who have empty hands but a heart full of faith, to
you who carry within you a past marked by pain but never stop dreaming of a
better future. In meeting you today, we would like to give wings to your hope.
We believe it, we believe that now, even in the camps for displaced persons,
where the country’s situation unfortunately forces you to stay, a new seed can
be born, as if from bare earth, which will bear fruit.
I would like to tell you: you are the seed of a new South Sudan, the seed for the
country’s fertile and luxuriant growth. It is you, of all the different ethnic groups,
you who have suffered and are suffering, but who do not want to respond to evil
with more evil. You, who are now choosing fraternity and forgiveness, are
cultivating a better tomorrow. A tomorrow that is born today, where you are,
from the ability to collaborate, to weave webs of communion and paths of
reconciliation with those who, different from you in terms of ethnicity and origin,
live next to you. Brothers and sisters, be seeds of hope, in which we can already
glimpse the tree that one day, we hope nearby, will bear fruit. Yes, you will be
the trees that will absorb the pollution of years of violence and restore the
oxygen of fraternity. It’s true, now you are “planted” where you don’t want to,
but precisely in this situation of hardship and precariousness you can reach out
to those around you and experience that you are rooted in humanity itself: from
here you have to start afresh to rediscover yourself as brothers and sisters,
children on earth of the God of heaven, Father of all.
Dear ones, to remind us that a plant comes from a seed are the roots. It’s nice
that here people care a lot about their roots. I have read that in these lands «the
roots must never be forgotten», because «the ancestors remind us who we are
and what our path should be… Without them we are lost, afraid and without a
compass. There is no future without a past» (C. Carlassare,Father Carlo’s hut.
Combonian among the Nuer, 2020, 65). In South Sudan young people grow up
treasuring the stories of the elderly and, if the narrative of recent years has been
characterized by violence, it is possible, indeed, it is necessary to inaugurate,
starting with you, a new one: a newencounter narrative, where what has been
suffered is not forgotten, but is inhabited by the light of fraternity; a narrative
that focuses not only on the tragedy of the news, but also on the burning desire
for peace. Be you, young people of different ethnicities, the front pages of this
narrative! If conflicts, violence and hatred have stripped the first pages of life of
this Republic away from good memories, you are the ones to rewrite its history
of peace! I thank you for your fortitude and for all your good deeds, which are so
pleasing to God and make each day you live precious.
I would also like to address a grateful word to those who help you, often in
conditions that are not only difficult, but emergency ones. Thanks to the
ecclesial communities for their works, which deserve to be supported; thanks to
the missionaries, humanitarian and international organizations, especially the
United Nations for the great work they do. Of course, a country cannot survive
on external support, mostly having a territory so rich in resources! But now they
are badly needed. I would also like to honor the many humanitarian workers
who have lost their lives, and urge respect for those who help and for the
population support structures, which cannot become targets for assaults and
vandalism. Alongside urgent aid, I believe it is very important, in the future, to
accompany the population on the path of development, for example by helping
them to learn up-to-date techniques for agriculture and livestock, so as to
facilitate more independent growth. I ask everyone with my heart in hand: let us
help South Sudan, let us not leave its population alone, who have suffered and
are still suffering so much!
In conclusion, I would like to address a thought to the many South Sudanese
refugees who are outside the country and to those who cannot return because
their territory has been occupied. I am close to them and I hope that they can
once again be protagonists of the future of their land, contributing to its
development in a constructive and peaceful way. Nyakuor Rebecca, you asked
me for a special blessing for the children of South Sudan, precisely so that you
can all grow together in peace. The three of us as brothers will give the blessing:
with my brother Justin and my brother Iain, together we will give you the
blessing. With it, may the blessing of so many Christian brothers and sisters in
the world reach you, who embrace and encourage you, knowing that in you, in
your faith, in your inner strength, in your dreams of peace, all the beauty of the
human being shines forth.