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Pilgrims stroll 9 days to see Pope Francis in South Sudan

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Hanah Zachariah is so decided to see Pope Francis in South Sudan that she walked 9 days in sandals to succeed in the capital the place he makes his long-awaited go to.

On Thursday, the 20-year-old reached the outskirts of Juba after strolling a lot of the method from the central city of Rumbek — a journey of round 400 kilometres (250 miles).

She was not alone.

Sixty different younger pilgrims and non secular leaders trod the gap, waving flags, singing hymns and preaching unity in a rustic scarred by years of civil battle.

“We’re strolling for peace. After we attain Juba, we’re going to welcome the pope. I’m very excited to see him,” Zachariah advised AFP, as passing vehicles honked their horns and cheered on the vibrant convoy.

Francis arrives on Friday for a three-day go to to South Sudan, the primary by any pope because the predominantly Christian nation cut up from Muslim-majority Sudan in 2011.

Its historical past since independence has been marred by 5 years of ethnic bloodshed that left 380,000 individuals useless and far of the younger nation in ruins.

– ‘Blisters’ –

Many hope Francis can restore a spirit of unity and brotherhood, and South Sudanese are flocking to Juba to listen to his message of reconciliation.

Amongst them is John Sebit, a pastoral employee who lined the gap from Rumbek alongside dust roads in flip flops.

“After we began the journey, it was difficult. Some individuals had blisters on their ft… However with motivation, we saved going,” the 26-year-old advised AFP.

Father Christian Carlassare, the bishop of Rumbek, confessed to having “sore ft” after setting off on January 25 however stated strolling was a strong act of solidarity.

“You don’t stroll alone,” stated Carlassare, an Italian who has lived in South Sudan for greater than 15 years, and was shot a number of instances at his residence in 2021 after being named bishop.

“At each neighborhood we had all the village –- actually, lots of of individuals — who have been coming to welcome us on the way in which.”

To keep away from the oppressive warmth of the dry season, the pilgrims would begin strolling earlier than daybreak every day. They’d arrange camp every night in school rooms alongside the way in which.

– ‘First time’ on tarmac –

When the gap between stops was too nice, assist automobiles would help with overlaying the excellent distance, whereas a physician onboard tended to cramps and bruises.

For some, the journey to the capital has proved eye opening.

“That is my first go to to Juba, and truly my first time stepping on a tarmac highway,” stated 23-year-old John Mareng as he walked alongside the freeway simply outdoors Juba.

“Now, I’ve seen how that is actuality.”

Hailing from a broad cross-section of South Sudan’s myriad ethnic teams, the pilgrims would carry out skits for his or her hosts concerning the significance of kinship.

“We’re strolling as a gaggle, as one individuals,” stated 20-year-old Tafisa Chol, a scholar in Rumbek.

“The message that we hope to present to the individuals, is that we ought to be one, and make peace amongst ourselves.”