The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has told South Sudanese refugees living in Uganda to hang unto hope and God as set their eyes to restoring peace in their country.
While visiting hundreds of the displaced persons in settlements in Adjumani district yesterday, Archbishop Welby, accompanied by his wife Carolina, told the refugees that peace is a strongest pillar of development.
Together with the Archbishop of the Church of Uganda, Stanley Ntagali, the two primates were welcomed at Mireyi primary school, few metres away from Mireyi refugee settlement.
A choir of cheerful women and youth displaced from the dioceses of Upper and Lower Nile Provinces sang hymns in the local Murle dialect and danced as they received the two church leaders.
Archbishop Welby, who earlier visited other refugees in settlements in Moyo district, said he had heard, with lots of pain, stories about the difficult situation of refugees living outside their home country.
Responding to a written memorandum handed to him by the refugees asking him to be an advocate of peace in South Sudan, he said; “I accept to be an advocate of peace for South Sudan because God called each person to be a peacemaker. I know you need to go home and build the world’s youngest nation into a great nation for yourself, your children and grandchildren.”
He told the refugees to believe that with God, peace is possible.
“I pray that the people might listen when I speak about you and how I have seen you”, he added drawing cheerful reactions.
Earlier, Archbishop Ntagali told his guest that Uganda does not have the vocabulary of refugees because of her culture to welcome everybody who come to her.
“Our door is always open. This is why you find refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo to the west, Rwandans down south, Kenyans to the East and South Sudanese to the north,” he elaborated.
James Leku, the chairperson of Adjumani district said the refugees and host communities are living peacefully together.
He said the coexistence has resulted into intermarriages and the communities enjoy a brotherly relationship. Leku explained that the settlement suffers from acute lack of food, water and school facilities for the refugees.
“Many youth who dropped out of secondary education are unable to continue with school. I urge you, dear Archbishop of Canterbury, to use your position to lobby for more facilities and accelerated secondary education for the refugees,” he said.
Adjumani is home to 17 large settlements for South Sudan refugees. According to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), Uganda is home to some 1.2 million South Sudan refugees who have been fleeing escalation of violence in their country since fresh war broke out between forces loyal to former vice president Riek Machar and those loyal to President Salva Kiir.
Machar has himself fled the violence to South Africa where he remains under house arrest.