, 03 November, 2019 / 8:08 PM
With the citizens of the youngest nation of the world, South Sudan, seemingly torn between apprehension and optimism against the backdrop of reports that the vice-president designate, Dr. Riek Machar wants the long-awaited November 12 date for the Transitional Government postponed yet again by another six months, the Catholic Bishops have delivered a message of hope and called on the citizens to “keep heads high.”
Dr. Machar, leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM-IO) and South Sudan’s vice-president designate under the compromise power sharing agreement of September 2018, has delayed his anticipated return to his country’s capital Juba until, the leader demands, cantonment, screening, training as well as the reunification of the armed forces and the various States are met.
“We feel the winds of change blowing towards us in the recent events happening in our two sisterly countries of Sudan and South Sudan. This is the very reason for urging you to keep your heads high because your redemption is near,” reads in part a statement of Bishops and heads of dioceses in Sudan and South Sudan dated Friday, November 1.
In explaining the blessings of the “winds of change,” the Bishops make particular references to events in Sudan and South Sudan.
“We remain hopeful that the leaders of South Sudan will overcome the current political standoff and deliver peace to their people by arriving at the formation of an inclusive and well-meaning Government of National Unity (R-GoNU),” the Bishops say in reference to the Revitalized Government of National Unity.
“It is our hope that our political leaders, in South Sudan, both in government and opposition, most of whom are Christians, will keep in mind the appeal and the ‘extraordinary gesture’ of the Holy Father begging them to bring peace to their brethren in South Sudan,” reads the message at the conclusion of the weeklong Annual Plenary Assembly that brought together Bishops and heads of dioceses in Sudan and South Sudan under their umbrella body of the Sudan Conference of Catholic Bishops (SCBC), which concluded Wednesday, October 30.
The Church leaders met at the Good Shepherd Peace Center, Kit, in the outskirts of Juba.
The Bishops’ message restates the message of the Bishops and heads of dioceses in South Sudan dated October 18 in which the Church leaders expressed the hope that “a new transitional government will be formed soon.”
In their message, Church leaders in South Sudan expressed their support for “the formation of the R-TGoNU only when essential preconditions have been met, and only when it is truly inclusive, including non-signatories to the (Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in of South Sudan) R-ARCSS.”
Termed “message of hope in the midst of the Solemnity of All Saints in the parish of Rejaf” where the Bishops gathered alongside clergy, religious, and laity for the conclusion of the centenary celebrations of the metropolitan Archdiocese of Juba, the Church leaders reflect on the situation in their country over the last years and state, “We have seen the wounds and misery of our people in the IPD camps inside our countries and refugee camps in the neighboring countries. We feel and share the unbearable economic conditions of our people in Sudan and South Sudan.”
The Church leaders acknowledge their negative sentiments with regard to the situation of their countries and find consolation in Jesus at Gethsemane.
“This is why, even as we felt fatigued, disappointment and frustration, the voice of Jesus was clear as it urges us: ‘Get up, let us go’,” the Bishops state, citing Jesus Christ’s attempt to boost the morale of the demoralized Apostles at Gethsemane as recorded in Mark 14:42.
The Bishops favorably compare the experience of Jesus and his Apostles in the garden of Gethsemane with the situation in their countries saying, “The Lord Jesus is telling us, amidst all our fears, concerns and hardships, not to lose heart but, instead, to get up and go forward with faith, hope and love.”
The Bishops express admiration for the citizens of Sudan and South Sudan manifested in the values of “sacrifice and forbearance in facing the many hardships.”
They add, “The patience and the dignity with which the majority of our people are living their faith is edifying in many ways.”
The Bishops identify the “epidemic called tribalism or regionalism” as the main challenge of their sister countries and state, “The politics of ethnicity, division and exclusion of others which often ends up in invocation of violence as a solution must come to an end.”
They add, “Remember that a true person of God cannot discriminate people on the basis of tribe, race, gender, or religion. If anything, we Christians should be the ones to liberate our people from such virulent plague of tribalism.”
“Another major challenge consuming our society is the scramble for power and ill-gotten wealth,” the Bishops have disclosed and explained, “In our society today, everyone wants to be first and to take everything for himself or herself. This greed is what leads to corruption, embezzlement of public funds and many other social problems in our communities.”
The Bishops advocate for servant leadership after the example of Jesus Christ both in Church and outside the Church saying, “Our Lord Jesus Christ teaches us that bishops, priests and government officials, should all be servants of the people after his example.”
The Bishops underline the neutrality of the Church in political matters of their respective countries.
“Given the peace rhetoric going on in our societies, we would like to take this opportunity to make it loud and clear that the Catholic Church in the Sudan and South Sudan is not working against any government. We do not support any party or individual politician,” the Bishops clarified and added, “We are not for any regime change anywhere but for the change of minds and hearts.”
The Bishops declare their interest in lasting peace saying, “We the bishops of Sudan and South Sudan are all for peace. We hold that the people of Sudan and South Sudan should never return to war again. It is high time Sudanese and South Sudanese political leaders put the interests of their people before their personal interests and to practice politics with a human face.”
They add, “The much-needed forgiveness, national healing and reconciliations in our two countries require exemplary leadership and much sacrifice at all levels of the society.”
“Our final appeal is for us to continue maintaining unity of purpose and to work together as one people, whether as politicians or religious leaders, in order to face these challenges together, share our meagre resources together and provide the most needed services to these resilient and dignified people of Sudan and South Sudan,” the Bishops have concluded their message addressed to the Clergy, Religious and the People of God in Sudan and South Sudan.
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