“We strongly denounce the recent and on-going violence”: Church Leaders in South Sudan

Sign Post of the Juba-based South Sudan Council of Churches, seven-member ecumenical body with a strong legacy of peacebuilding, reconciliation and advocacy.
Credit: ACI Africa

The representatives of various Christian denominations in South Sudan have, in a collective statement, denounced the violence in the Eastern Africa country following recent incidents in which several armed confrontations in some six States ended with hundreds of deaths and numerous injuries.

In their statement dated Wednesday June 17, the church leaders under the umbrella body, the South Sudan Council of Churches (SSCC), highlight particular areas with distressing security situations for over a month.

Towards the end of May, hundreds have been killed in the spat of inter-communal violence in South Sudan’s Jonglei state. At least 300 people were wounded in the violence between the Murle and Lou Nuer ethnic communities.

Between January and May, the United Nations Mission in the world’s newest nation is reported to have recorded 415 violent incidents between communities, up from 129 in 2018.

“We strongly denounce the recent and on-going violence in Greater Jonglei Ruweng, Warrap, Greater Yei, Lakes and other places in the Republic of South Sudan including Gumba Sherikhat,” SSCC representatives say in a statement signed by SSCC leadership including the Catholic Metropolitan Archbishop of Juba, Stephen Ameyu.

“We the Church in South Sudan are deeply saddened by the escalation of violence in nearly all the States of our country,” the church leaders say and add, “We call for immediate cessation of hostilities and formation of State and County Governments.”

Since a unity government was formed in February 22, there has been a leadership vacuum at all the ten states of South Sudan, with debates over allocation of states to political parties delaying the appointment of governors to administer the countryside.

A June 19 local media report has quoted the Information Minister Michael Makuei Lueth as saying that the President Salva Kiir will appoint the governors “next week as parties are now preparing to submit names of respective nominees.”

In their June 17 collective message obtained by ACI Africa, SSCC leaders appeal to “the Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity (R-TGoNU) and all the Opposition groups to bring this multiple devastating violence to an end with immediate effect.”

“We strongly deplore the increased loss of lives and destruction of properties of populations already impoverished by conflicts in the country,” the church leaders state, adding, “God is watching us and will hold us accountable for disrespecting and disregarding the sanctity of the gift of life.”

In their message, the religious leaders call upon the citizens of the landlocked African country “to embrace peace and harmonious coexistence” saying, “We are all bound by the destiny and love for one another in this our beloved land.”

Appealing to the government, they say, “We call upon all our political leaders in R-TGoNU and opposition to be true to the agreements and declarations they have signed and ensure their full and timely implementations.”

They also “appeal in the name of God to all our political leaders to value the people over and above position, power and party interests.”

“We assure our people that the Church will remain true to its divine calling and ministry,” the representatives of SSCC say and add, “We believe there is still hope for us and South Sudan will overcome. Let's not give up.”

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
[email protected]