South Sudanese Cleric Calls for Effective Leadership amid COVID-19

Fr. Martin Ochaya of Juba Archdiocese, South Sudan.

A Catholic Priest in South Sudan has called on the government, churches, the civil society and families across the country to execute effective leadership during the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, saying that the virus has presented itself as “a challenge and a litmus test to governments across the world.”

“We are aware of the threats (of COVID-19) we are going through today my brothers and sisters,” Fr. Martin Ochaya of Juba Archdiocese said June 7 during his Sunday Homily that was broadcast live on Bakhita Radio of the Archdiocese of Juba, one of the radios that constitute the Catholic Radio Network (CRN).

“We need effective leadership, like that of Moses, to guide the people of God. We need effective leadership in our country,” Fr. Martin said during Holy Mass at Saint Joseph’s Parish in the capital Juba and added, “We need state leadership, we need Church leadership, we need civil society leadership, and we need family leadership so that we move strongly and together towards the heavenly kingdom.”

Sharing his observation about responses by various governments to the prevention of the pandemic in Africa, the South Sudanese Cleric said some countries on the continent have responded better than others.   

“Some governments seem to be succeeding, some are failing, and we need more prayers as the Bishop called us,” he said, adding, “We also need to stand in collaboration to combat the pandemic.”

South Sudan recorded 1,604 COVID cases on Monday, June 8, with experts warning that the high increase in the number of infections and related safety measures are thwarting efforts of the young nation to work towards peace.

Dr Ismail Wais, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Special Envoy for South Sudan, who addressed a virtual meeting on June 3 organized by the Open Society Initiative for Eastern Africa said the spread of the virus has restricted mobility of the mediators and the peace process requires trust-building through face-to-face meetings.

“The restrictions imposed for COVID-19 do not portend well for the implementation as there is real danger of lack of participation by the mediators, officials and parties,” he said.

Dr Wais said that COVID-19 pandemic in South Sudan has hit the poorest hard and challenging barely existing health facilities and is diverting the meagre funding available for the implementation of the September 2018 Revitalized Peace Agreement.

Emphasizing the significance of preventive measures, Fr. Martin echoed the World Health Organization’s (WHO) call to wear facemasks while in public places and to keep social distancing rules.

“WHO yesterday (Saturday, June 6) has reached a consensus that all people must wear facemasks when accessing public places and to keep social distancing rules. I would like to emphasize the importance of compliance with preventive measures to stop the spread of the virus,” he said.

He added, “In this situation of ours with clear updates about response plans and messages of hope to the worrying, fearful people of God because of the threat we are under today, the gospel describes the mission of Christ into the world.”

The Juba Archdiocesan Cleric expressed his appreciation for efforts made by South Sudanese saying, “We commend the work of the people in our country, particularly in Juba who are producing masks locally at an affordable price.”

He encouraged those who have more facemasks to extend their kindness by sharing with those who do not have.

Seeking to trash misconceptions weaved around the virus and its effects in Africa, Fr. Martin said, “It is unfortunate that some of us seem to be misleading people that the virus is not real and that if it is, it doesn’t kill black people.”

He asked his compatriots not to suppress efforts put in place to combat the spread of the virus but instead look up to the Supernatural being.

“In the face of coronavirus with all its associated challenges, we must not lose faith in God who is always with us, who accompanies us in all circumstances. He is with us, Emmanuel,” Fr. Martin said, and added, “Let us pray that the good Lord, the most Holy Trinity will get us out of this disease.”

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