, 15 April, 2020 / 3:30 AM
The need for reconciliation in the world’s youngest nation where a government of national unity has recently been put in place was a key highlight of the Easter message of the Archbishop of the country’s only Metropolitan See, Juba Archdiocese. The South Sudanese Prelate described his country as “broken” and in need of “God’s intervention.”
“South Sudan is a broken nation. The families of this nation are broken. The ethnic communities of this nation are broken. Individual citizens are broken. This nation needs special God's intervention. Reconciliation is the only remedy to this broken nation,” Archbishop Stephen Ameyu of Juba Archdiocese wrote in his Easter message addressed “to all faithful people of God” in Juba and in the diocese of Torit where he is Apostolic Administrator.
He added in his Easter message, “Reconciliation is a gift of grace from God when we request our father. It is God's initiative to save humanity; and because of His love for humanity, He sent his only begotten Son to redeem the world and return it to God his father.”
South Sudan gained independence July 2011, an outcome of the 2005 agreement that ended the longest-running civil war in Africa.
A civil war in the independent South Sudan broke out in December 2013 when troops loyal to the then-only-Vice President Dr. Riek Machar clashed with government forces.
While the source of the conflict might have been political rivalry, the main political leaders implicated in the protracted violent struggle seem to have used the ethnic card, pitting the two largest tribes, the Dinka and the Nuer.
Nearly 400,000 people died as a result of the armed conflict and recent statistics have put about four million South Sudanese as refugees including the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), a media report shows.
During the conflict, unimaginable atrocities were committed including “widespread ethnic cleansing, burning villages,” gang rape, alongside other human rights violations, media reported.
A government of national unity was formed on February 22, marking the end of the armed conflict but leaving behind a country in need of reconciliation and healing.
“To effect reconciliation in society requires an inner radical conversion of heart. Again, this conversion of heart is an act of God in the hearts of people,” Archbishop Ameyu wrote in his Easter message and added, “Unless the power of reconciliation is created in people's hearts, spiritual and political commitment to justice, peace and truth cannot be realized.”
He underscored in reference to his country, South Sudan, “In order, therefore, to have a conversion of heart, there is a need of God in the hearts of men and women in this nation.”
In his message titled, “Be Reconciled with God,” the South Sudanese Prelate traced the need for reconciliation to conflicts that have existed for several decades saying, “Since the start of political turmoil in this country in 1955, there has never been any serious attempt at reconciling people.”
He explained, “Two brutal civil wars were fought here. Atrocities were committed; war crimes and crimes against humanity, rapes against women: all these crimes have never been addressed neither in any national nor international forum.”
“People of this nation are physically, psychologically and spiritually traumatized,” the 56-year-old Prelate lamented and added in reference to the start of the latest civil conflict in his country, “The wounds of the last two civil wars remained unhealed. The 15th December 2013, added salt to the festering wounds of the previous civil wars.”
In the message, Archbishop Ameyu also appealed to religious and political leaders to seize the opportunity of the Feast of the resurrection of Christ “to reconcile our people.”
“I therefore appeal to the government of National Unity; together with the all churches to begin with this process of National healing,” Archbishop Ameyu said.
The Prelate was installed as Archbishop of Juba on March 22. His last December appointment as Archbishop of Juba had been met with resistance through defamatory letters.
“There is no peace without justice. There has never been any justice in this country. This is a reality; this is the truth,” the Archbishop stated, citing St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, “Tell the truth in love.”
“The Church calls for the establishment of an independent Truth Reconciliation Commission, where every citizen will have an opportunity to talk the truth, only the truth, starting from 1955, can truly heal our community trauma and individual trauma,” he stated in his three-page message.
He added, “Those found responsible for the tragedy in South Sudan will answer for it through confessing their sins in public to the commission; so that they can be forgiven by their victims, that is the Church's way of reconciling people to God and their brothers and sisters.”
Referencing Kenya’s Jomo Kenyatta and South Africa’s Nelson Mandela who forgave and reconciled with their colonial masters after having undergone torture and unjust imprisonment for many years, Archbishop Ameyu exhorted South Sudanese “to learn to forgive and reconcile with one another.”
“Journey of reconciliation in fraternal communion which entails renouncing our desire to dominate others and learning to see one another as persons, sons, daughters of God, brothers and sisters,” he stated, citing Pope Francis.
“Easter is the feast of Reconciliation between God and man through the passion, death and resurrection (Paschal Mystery) of Christ,” the Archbishop said and continued, “Through Christ, God forgave our sins and we became reconciled with Him. Christ too reconciled us amongst ourselves when we accept the forgiveness and reconciliation of God.”
He concluded, “We turn to one another with God's grace of love and forgive one another in reconciliation. Because God loves us in Christ, we therefore love one another and establish communion with God and with one another.”
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa