South Sudan Needs Trauma Healing to Address “sexual violence effects”: Catholic Official

Credit: Agenzia Fides

Survivors of sexual violence in South Sudan need to be helped, the Coordinator of the Catholic Health Commission (CHC) in the East-Central African nation has said, and proposed the reestablishment of a trauma healing facility in the country.

Healing of the Healer (HTH) program of the Sudan Catholic Bishops Conference (SCBC) that the Catholic Diocese of Rumbek (DOR) hosted under the leadership of late Bishop Caesar Mazzolari provided psychosocial assistance to pastoral agents including members of the Clergy and women and men Religious.

Addressing a World Council of Churches (WCC) meeting in Geneva, Thomas Tongun Leone reportedly highlighted the various forms of sexual violence victims of the vice have endured during the protracted civil war that started in December 2013, just over two years since the country gained independence from Sudan.

“South Sudan needs a trauma healing center to help survivors of sexual violence,” Dr. Tongun is quoted as saying in the report that the Information Service of Propaganda Fide, Agenzia Fides, published on Monday, December 18 following the Geneva meeting.

Women in war-torn areas in South Sudan are still experiencing sexual violence and the related effects, the CHC Coordinator in the country, who is a medical doctor says, adding that victims of the violence have experienced psychological trauma occasioned by “rape, sexual slavery, forced prostitution, forced pregnancy, forced abortion, forced sterilization, forced marriage, and many other forms.”


“Sexual violence affects the health of those who experience it, damaging their life experiences,” Dr. Tongun says in the Agenzia Fides report.

He continues, “In physical health, survivors of rape and other forms of sexual violence experienced immediate and long-term physical injuries and face the prospect of being at risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases.”

The South Sudanese medical doctor goes on to express cautious optimism that the country’s situation will change to a peaceful one, saying, “We will come out of war, but we will have many traumatized people.”

The sexual violence is a real weapon of war that is “deliberately used and intended to punish and humiliate people and their communities,” Dr. Tongun is quoted as saying during the Geneva WCC meeting that had religious leaders and civil society experts across the world in attendance.

A Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS) was signed in September 2018 in Ethiopia’s capital city, Addis Ababa. The agreement laid out power sharing between the government side – the Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU) – and the main opposition (South Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement/Army-In Opposition – SPLM/A-IO), the South Sudan Opposition Alliance (SSOA), Former Detainees (FD), as well as Other Opposition Parties (OPP). 

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After intense international pressure on political leaders in South Sudan, including Pope Francis’ dramatic gesture of kissing the feet of President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar, a unity government was formed on 22 February 2020.

Despite the peace agreement, violent conflicts in the country have reported persisted. Even as Pope Francis was visiting the country in February this year, “mass graves were being dug just 100 kilometers away for 27 civilians killed in a hail of automatic gunfire,” an AFP February 2023 report indicates.

The report further says, “The deadly episode underscored a sobering reality in South Sudan: despite assurances to the contrary, and billions spent on peacekeeping, law and order rarely extends beyond the capital.”

Church leaders, including SCBC members have individually and collectively challenged parties in the South Sudanese conflicts to end hostilities and foster dialogue and peaceful coexistence.



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