Pope Francis has declared the sale of weapons to be the ‘biggest plague in the world’.
He made the comment while speaking to reporters on a flight home to Rome from South Sudan alongside Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Right Reverend Iain Greenshields, the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.
The visit was part of an unusual ‘Pilgrimage of Peace’ in Africa by Christian religious leaders to nudge forward the country’s recovery from civil war.
The Pope said on Sunday: ‘Violence is an everyday theme. We have just seen it in South Sudan. It is painful to see how violence is provoked.
‘One of the issues is the sale of weapons. The sale of arms: I think this is the biggest plagues in the world.’ Said he had been told that if all sales of weapons stopped for a year, world hunger could come to an end.
‘At the top today is the selling of arms. And not only among the great powers.
‘Even to these poor people they sow war with them. It’s cruel. They tell them “Go to war!” and they give them weapons. Because behind it there are economic interests to exploit the land, the minerals, the wealth.
‘This is to destroy: destroying creation, destroying the person, destroying society.’
During the three-day visit, Francis, Welby, and Greenshields drew attention to the plight of South Sudan’s most vulnerable people, the women, and children who make up the majority of people living in temporary camps.
They raised, in particular, the plight of women in a country where sexual violence is rampant, child brides are common and the maternal mortality rate is the highest in the world.
The Pope continued as he spoke onboard the plane: ‘I don’t know if it happens in South Sudan but it does happen in some countries: young boys are recruited to be part of the militia and fight with other young boys.
‘To sum up, I think the biggest problem is the eagerness to take that country’s wealth – coltan, lithium, these sorts of things ? and through war, for which they sell weapons, they also exploit children.
‘The whole war is at war and self-destruction – we must stop in time!’