In their message, the church leaders in South Sudan urge all parties to the conflict to swiftly implement their commitments to prevent and respond to sexual violence perpetrated by their personnel.
They urge all parties to the country’s protracted conflict to observe the 2017 ceasefire agreement and the 2018 peace agreement in order to build an inclusive and prosperous South Sudan.
“Note that despite formal commitments, parties to the conflict in South Sudan continue to target women, girls, men and boys with acts of sexual violence as an infamous tool to harm, humiliate, displace and stigmatize the civilian population undermining social cohesion,” the religious leaders say.
The representatives of the various churches in South Sudan have also raised concerns over increased use of sexual violence by local communities, armed youth and militias in various parts of the country including Jonglei, Warrap, Western Bahr El Ghazal and the greater Equatoria Region, to settle disputes through the abduction of women and children, forced marriages, and rape.
In their collective message, the church leaders highlight the “indelible suffering” that sexual violence can inflict on victims, their families and communities. Such suffering, they say, include chronic injuries, mental disorders, isolation, anger and loss of livelihoods.
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“(We) appreciate efforts carried out by church and partners across the country during the last 12 months to eliminate stigma against victims of sexual violence and to provide them with care, protection and justice,” SSCC representatives say and appeal to religious leaders of all faiths to promote social cohesion among their followers.
They further commend survivors of conflict-driven sexual violence for their strength in speaking up against sexual violence, defying a culture of stigma and fears of retaliation.
In an array of recommendations to contain conflict-related sexual violence, the leaders remind government institutions in the country of their obligation to provide survivors with comprehensive services such as health, justice including reparations and livelihood programs.
“(SSCC) stands united in strongly denouncing conflict-related sexual violence and therefore invite non-governmental organizations, donors and other partners to continue supporting the provision of survivor-centered services aiming at alleviating the trauma and promoting social justice and economic empowerment,” the church leaders say.
Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.