Advertisement

“Put a complete stop to ongoing killings”: South Sudan’s Equatoria State Religious Leaders

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

Religious leaders in South Sudan’s Western Equatoria State are calling on the country’s government to intervene and put an end to what they have described as “the continuous culture of killings going on the State”.

In their recent collective statement, eight representatives of religious leaders who include the Catholic Bishop of Tombura-Yambio say at least 200 people have lost their lives amid the violent conflict in the Greater Tombura region within the Western Equatoria State. 

“We express concerns on the insecurity in this country South Sudan, particularly in Greater Tombura, and we adamantly call on the government of South Sudan at all levels to put a complete stop to the ongoing killing of innocent people,” the religious leaders say in their six-page letter dated September 2.

They describe the nature of the violence saying, “It is with immense pain that we express our concern over the attack on innocent civilians who are taking refuge in sacred places and in bushes.”

The religious leaders continue, “The violent acts, including continuous abducting; kidnapping or targeting civilians, using harmful tools on a frightened group of largely women and children, resulting in death is very bad.”

Advertisement

“Our hearts are bleeding, and we are more troubled when we hear of the massacre presently going on, the recovering of mutilated bodies of our sons and daughters, children, elderly, women and men,” they say in their collective letter signed by eight representatives of religious leaders.

They highlight the level of anxiety among the people of God who are seeking refuge in places of worship, and Sisters’ convents.

“Thousands of people have taken refuge at churches, priests’ centers and nuns’ convents because they think they are safe. Their fate is still not known to the outside world,” the religious leaders in South Sudan’s Western Equatoria State say. 

“We condemn these heinous crimes in greater Tombura, in the strongest possible way,” they say and express their condolences to and sympathies with all those who have lost their loved ones in the violent conflict.

They urge the South Sudanese government to intervene and “immediately stop the attacks against civilians.” 

More in Africa

The religious leaders underscore the “urgent” need for assistance and describe the situation as “a great humanitarian tragedy.”

“Food, medicine and hygiene are urgent needs but there is no way of reaching them. Many among them are children and old people, who are forced to starve and are without any medical aid, this is a great humanitarian tragedy,” Episcopal Communion, Islamic Council Western Equatoria State

In the statement signed by Bishop Eduardo Hiibiro Kussala of the Catholic Diocese of Tombura-Yambio alongside representatives of different religious denominations, including the African Inland Church, Pentecostal Church, Seventh Day Adventist, and Evangelical Lutheran Church, among others, the religious leaders call for accountability.

“As your Religious Leaders, we reiterate that this administration must not - and should never - condone extrajudicial and vigilante killings, and justice will one day have to prevail! Accountability is essential to good government,” they say.

They add, “We chose violence instead of peace. We chose lies instead of truth. We chose to laugh at obscenities instead of correcting these. We chose to be silent rather than to be involved.”

Advertisement

The faith-based leaders further call on those at the helm of the national and State governments to “do the right thing thus, protection of civilians and enhancing of life! Please put an end to the killing of innocent people right now in Greater Tombura.”

“We also insist that the perpetrators of those killings must be brought to justice,” they further say.

Addressing themselves to the parties in conflict, the representatives of religious leaders in Western Equatoria State caution against abuse of some spaces and institutions saying, “Places of worship as cultural property of a community, hospital, schools, prison, embassies are covered by International Protocols.”

They reach out to those involved in the violence, inviting them to reconsider their activities and strive for the alternative values of “love and unity”.

“Stop killing your brothers and sisters! We sincerely invite those of you who are caught up in divisions and pains to know that it is through love and unity that evil can be overcome and the specter of violence broken,” they say.

(Story continues below)

The faith-based leaders “invite all believers, Christians and Muslims, to join in praying daily, every day for forty days, which we shall have to conclude with an Ecumenical State Prayers.”

“We want all the people suffering the incessant attacks in Greater Tombura and all over Western Equatoria State to know that all the believers in South Sudan are praying for them,” they say, and add, “We are praying for Peace in this great land and hoping all of us can live as brothers and sisters in this great nation.”

They encourage South Sudanese to be “instruments of peace and reconciliation, and to be on the part of justice for all.”

“Please do pray for eternal rest (for) all who died in the violence in Greater Tombura, Western Equatoria and in other parts of the country,” they say, and lament, “It is so frustrating that all our appeals through our various socio-political messages have not yet found a consistent response from the people concerned.”

The representatives of religious leaders ask international partners such as the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) to “neutrally communicate more about their vision of peace in the country, particularly this very one in Greater Tombura, and that they become involved in strengthening mechanisms in handling conflict, than ever before!” 

“As religious Leaders, vehemently condemn inactiveness to respond for the protection of the Civilians. We promise to continue to work for peace and reconciliation among our people and in our land!” the religious leaders say in their September 2 statement obtained by ACI Africa.