South Sudanese churches ask warring parties to end conflict and build peace

By World Council of Churches (WCC)

GENEVA, Switzerland, February 21, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- Member churches of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in South Sudan say “we are tired of war”, stressing the urgency to “work for peace and rebuild what has been destroyed”.

The South Sudanese churches conveyed this stance in a statement they issued in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on 10 February, where negotiations between the South Sudanese government and Sudan People's Liberation Movement opposition rebels are currently underway following a ceasefire deal signed on 23 January.

The conflict which broke out in December last year has cost thousands of lives in the world's newest country, while United Nations reports say that about 723,000 people have been displaced in South Sudan and some 145,000 people have fled to nearby countries.

The South Sudanese church leaders, representing diverse denominations, underlined the need for “comprehensive peace” in their statement, asking the parties involved in negotiations to end the war, protect civilians and support humanitarian initiatives. “…[W]e are one nation, sharing one identity, rich in culture, blessed by diversity, which is to be celebrated, not resented,” stress the South Sudanese churches.

“Let us, therefore, endeavour to build our nation on a strong foundation of truth, justice, reconciliation, diversity and peace. These noble values are drawn from the Gospel and they can provide a solid national foundation for our new republic,” the statement continues.

The churches expressed their wish to “see a just and peaceful South Sudan inspired and transformed by Godly values towards holistic and equitable development for all people. To this end, we are committed and we shall not rest until we achieve it with the help of God.”

The signatories of the statement included Bishop Enock Tombe Stephen, Bishop Isaiah Majok Dau, Bishop Arkangelo Wani Lemi, Rev. Tut Kony Nyang, Rev. Peter Gai Lual, Isaac Kunguru Kenyi, Bishop Michael Taban Toro, Rev. Mark Akec Cien, Agnes Wasuk Sarafino, Gladys Dommy Mananyu and Jim Long John representing various churches and ecumenical organizations in Sudan and South Sudan.

The urgency for peace in South Sudan has been expressed by the WCC on several occasions, including in a recent Minute adopted by the WCC Central Committee. The Minute calls for “immediate cessation of hostilities”, asking “all warring parties to respect, honour and implement in good faith the cease-fire agreement”.

The WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit also expressed his concerns over violence in the country in his letter to the South Sudanese president Salva Kiir Mayardit, whom he met in April 2013.

“The people of South Sudan have suffered for several decades and are now longing for peace and justice. We pray that the situation will quickly normalize and that peace will prevail again soon,” Tveit said in a letter to Kiir following the conflict in December.