‘May hope and peace dwell in South Sudan’ – Pope Francis urges to put an end to violence in South Sudan
by Neo Allert
On Sunday, 5 February, Pope Francis ended his trip to South Sudan, the world’s youngest country, with a passionate plea for peace. Soon after South Sudan gained its independence in 2011, it became engulfed in a bloody civil war that left 400,000 people dead and forced millions to flee their homes. A peace deal signed between the current President Salva Kiir, his major rival Riek Machar and other opposition groups, has been largely ineffective in bringing about the peace that so many have yearned for.
Pope Francis has long been active in promoting peace in this region. In 2019, in a dramatic gesture, the leader of the Catholic church knelt down to kiss the feet of South Sudan’s once warring leaders during a meeting at the Vatican, urging them to put an end to the violence.
Thousands dead in Turkey and Syria after large-scale earthquakes
by Eleanor Austin
On Monday, 6 February, two major earthquakes hit southern Turkey and northern Syria, a region that has not experienced a large-scale earthquake for over 200 years. The first quake, of 7.8 magnitude, struck the Turkish city of Gaziantep and the second, of 7.5 magnitude, hit the area north of Kahramanmaras. It has been reported that more than 1000 people have died in Syria. Turkey has similarly reported more than thousand deaths after the first earthquake hit. Sadly, areas of Syria, such as Aleppo, which have been at the forefront of fighting in recent years have been hit the hardest by this earthquake.
Leaders from across the globe have promised to send aid to the region and have committed themselves to help Turkey and Syria rebuild after this disaster. However, until then, with many people lost or trapped under buildings, the death toll is expected to rise.
Albania diverges from EU by granting visa-free travel to Chinese citizens
by Harvey Young
On 17 January 2023, the Albanian Prime Minister announced that Chinese passport holders will no longer need a visa to stay in the country for up to 180 days. Previously Chinese citizens could only stay for a limited period of time without a visa. This movie could complicate Albania’s relationship with the EU which it aims to join in the near future. A 2022 report from the European Parliament highlighted concerns about Albania’s’ increasing ties with China, arguing that this could negatively impact the region’s prospects of joining the EU.
In recent years, China has invested vast amounts of money in Albania, with the announcement of mutual visa-free travel being the latest development in the two countries’ increasingly close relationship. However, it remains to be seen if Albania will have to choose between a closer relationship with the EU or with China.
Missing radioactive capsule lost by Rio Tinto found in Western Australia
by Orestis Sechas
On 1 February, Australian state emergency authorities announced the discovery of a tiny but dangerous radioactive capsule that had gone missing in the Western Australian Outback. The announcement followed a challenging and extensive week-long search involving around 100 people along a 1,400km long stretch of highway. The capsule contained Caesium-137, a substance which can cause skin damage, burns and radiation sickness. It was lost while being transported from Rio Tinto’s Gudai-Darri iron ore mine to a facility in the city of Perth – a distance greater than the length of Great Britain.
In announcing their finding, the state emergency authorities said that they had ‘literally found the needle in the haystack’. Mining giant Rio Tinto apologised ‘to the wider community of Western Australia for the concern (the capsule) has generated’ and promised that a full investigation looking into the incident would be launched swiftly.
Protests continuing in Peru
by Kate Nuttall
Peru has faced political instability ever since Pedro Castillo announced in December 2022 that he would dissolve Congress. This resulted in his impeachment only hours later, as he was seen to attempt to rule by decree. This sparked violent protests in support of Castillo and in opposition to his successor, Peru’s first female head of state Dina Boluarte.
The main support for the protests is centred around Southern Peru, specifically around the city of Puno. A state of emergency was declared last month in this region, and has been extended across seven other regions in order to authorise military support for the police. A bill allowing early elections was blocked this week, stifling any kind of debate on this issue for another six months. President Boluarte is committed to staying in office despite not having been elected as President and experiencing little support.