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Religious Leaders in South Sudan’s Western Equatoria State Condemn Ongoing Violence

Religious leaders in South Sudan's Western Equatorial state addressing journalists on the state of insecurity in their region/ Credit: Courtesy Photo

Religious leaders serving in South Sudan’s Western Equatoria State have condemned “in the strongest terms possible” the ongoing violence between members of the Azande and Balanda communities in Tombura County, a territory covered by the Catholic Diocese of Tombura-Yambio.

In their Thursday, June 24 collective statement, the religious leaders describe the ongoing tribal clashes as “disheartening” and call on members of the warring tribes to put an end to the “senseless conflict.”

“It is very disheartening to see that the once peaceful communities are turning against each other,” they say.

The religious leaders who include Catholic Bishop Eduardo Hiibiro Kussala of Tombura-Yambio Diocese say that many people in the region have been displaced, maimed, kidnapped and “killed in cold blood.”

“We condemn this conflict in the strongest terms possible,” they say and express their condolences to and sympathies with all those who have lost their loved ones in the violent conflict.

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“We beseech you to stop the conflict and pave the way for dialogue and reconciliation,” they appeal to members of the warring communities.

In a separate audio message shared with ACI Africa June 25, Bishop Hiiboro says that following the violent conflict, most of the Parishes in his episcopal see are hosting Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).

The South Sudanese Bishop calls for concerted efforts to end the violence, and urges members of the respective tribes “not move in that spirit of revenge.”

“To all the people in the area, I beg you, I implore you, I encourage you to stand by one another and resist this evil by goodness,” Bishop Hiiboro says in reference to tendencies to revenge.

He adds, “All of us, all the intellectuals, all the elders, all the youth, all the members of the families, women and men, let us mobilize our efforts towards Tombura and get this problem finished.”

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Fighting and violence, the Catholic Bishop underscores, “cannot bring peace, instead it crushes life, it destroys.”

He calls upon members of the Clergy ministering in his Diocese alongside the Religious and the Laity “to pray for those who have lost their beloved ones and for a total peace.”

 

 

In their June 24 collective statement, religious leaders in South Sudan’s Western Equatoria State challenge members of communities engaged in violence to “recall their history of coexistence and cohesion and take our diversity as a gift that is willed by God for our own enrichment.”

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They emphasize the need for peaceful co-existence between members of the Azande and the Balanda saying the two ethnic communities have “intermarried and have mixed blood.”

“One cannot disentangle one community from the other,” the religious leaders say in reference to the Azande and the Balanda in South Sudan’s Western Equatoria State.

As a way forward, the religious leaders also highlight a raft of measures to address the situation.

“You should desist from any tribal incitement and provocation. We call on you or to move closer to your communities at this point and together rough out this evil that is taking root in our people,” they say, addressing themselves to all South Sudanese leaders.

Leaders in South Sudan, they say, should “be honest in exercising our stewardship over the people of God.”

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“We urge you, the leaders, to be accountable before God and man for all your words and deeds,” the religious leaders say.

The governments of the Western Equatoria State and South Sudan, the religious leaders say, should “fulfil their obligation to protect and defend the civil population from internal and external aggression without distinctions.”

They also call on the leadership of the World’s youngest nation “to expedite the full implementation of the Revitalised Peace Agreement, particularly the security arrangements to move saddled and conform lights of identities of armed forces across Western Equatorial State.”

The religious leaders also call on the international community and people of goodwill to contribute towards restoring peace in Tombura County.

“Our attention is on the humanitarian and emergency that has been created, and we, therefore, call upon the UN Agencies and other non-Governmental and community-based organizations to come out and offer consolation, relief and healing to all the distressed without distinctions,” they say.

They also urge “the sons and daughters residing in the Greater Tombura in Western Equatoria State, the whole country and the diaspora to desist from talks that fuel conflicts.”

“We honestly pray that love, peace and unity will reign in the hearts of all of us,” the religious leaders in South Sudan’s Western Equatoria State implored in their collective message.

Peter MapuorACI Africa correspondent in South Sudan contributed to this story.