The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Pope and the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland began a three-day visit to South Sudan on Friday.
The historical visit has been dubbed a “Pilgrimage of Peace” as the Church leaders stand in solidarity with the people of South Sudan who continue to suffer from conflict, flooding and famine.
South Sudan separated from Sudan in 2011, making it the newest country in the world. However, a civil war erupted two years later, resulting in 400,000 deaths.
According to the United Nations, it’ has left 2.2 million internally displaced people in the country and another 2.3 million have fled. It is estimated that 9.4 million people need humanitarian assistance.
The trip was promised during a spiritual retreat at the Vatican in 2019 attended by South Sudanese political leaders. It lead to South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit inviting Most Rev Justin Welby, Pope Francis and Rt Rev Dr Ian Greenshields for an ecumenical visit.
They will meet local church representatives, political leaders, civil war victims, and lead a large open-air prayer vigil for peace.
Dr Greenshields said: "We pray that this visit will be a catalyst for the leaders of South Sudan to focus on what unites them and not what divides them for they are all loved equally in the eyes of the Lord.
"And to do so for the sake of the future of all their people to ensure a just peace which allows everyone the opportunity to flourish and live healthy and happy lives.
"There is still much work to do and the symbolism of this historic ecumenical visit after centuries of division between parts of the Christian Church sends out a very strong message about our steadfast commitment to standing in solidarity with the churches and people of this country.
"We encourage the people of South Sudan to give expression to Jesus' words that ‘Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called the children of God’."
Around 60-70 per cent of South Sudan’s population is Christian, with the main denominations being Presbyterian, Catholic and Anglican.