, 17 December, 2019 / 2:21 AM
Leaders of Christian denominations in the world’s youngest nation have, in their collective Christmas message, to advocate for lasting peace in their country, imploring the parties in conflict to engage in dialogue and make compromises to facilitate the formation of a unity government envisaged in the September 2018 Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS).
“The Church welcomes continuous dialogue among the parties to the R-ARCSS on outstanding issues of the peace agreement and encourages the parties to compromise in the interest of peace for our people,” reads part of the Christmas message by Church leaders under their umbrella body, South Sudan Council of Churches (SSCC).
“The Church is concerned about military confrontations and unresolved differences between parties to the R-ARCSS and non-signatories. We call on all these parties to cease all hostilities and use dialogue to resolve their difference,” the Church leaders stated in their collective message signed by seven representatives including Catholic Church’s Archbishop Paolino Lukudu of Juba and Fr. James Oyet Latansio who is the General Secretary of SSCC.
“Let us pray that the will to resume dialogue on issues of concerns and tensions may prevail between the parties and that a negotiated solution can finally be reached, one that would allow the peaceful coexistence of communities of South Sudan,” the leaders expressed.
In 2013, civil war broke out in South Sudan after President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy Riek Machar and others of attempting to overthrow his government.
Further violence erupted in the country’s capital, Juba, in 2016 between supporters of the two leaders (Kiir and Machar).
On September 12, 2018, President Kiir and the rebel leader Machar signed a power-sharing deal in which they promised to end the five-year civil strife by forming a unity government in May 2019 with Kiir as President and Machar as Vice President.
The May 2019 deadline was postponed by six months and on November 8, Kiir and the Vice-President designate Machar agreed to yet another extension, this time for 100 days, a move SSCC welcomed.
“The Church is concerned about the slow implementation of the peace agreement. Continuous delays in the implementation would mean extension of the suffering of the people and shattering their hopes for lasting peace in the country,” the Church leaders expressed in their Christmas message.
They reminded the “leadership of the parties of their obligations and commitments to implement the peace agreement in letter and spirit.”
The Christian leaders made known their commitment to ensuring that the nation attains peace.
“The Church commits to work with all of them to deliver peace to our people,” they said in reference to the openness of the Christian leaders to collaborate with leaders of the parties in conflict.
They urged South Sudanese to “unite to make 2020 a year of peace and hope for the people of South Sudan.”
Recognizing Christmas as “the time for Peace,” the leaders invited South Sudanese to “ask the Lord for Peace, Healing, Forgiveness and Reconciliation for South Sudan.”
To members of the International community that are working to ensure peace in the country, the Church leaders asked that they “continue praying and standing with the people in their quest for lasting peace.”
“May the Lord also sustain the efforts of all those in the international community inspired by goodwill to help that afflicted people of South Sudan, despite grave obstacles, the harmony, justice and security that it has long awaited,” the Church leaders said.
“To the Baby Jesus, we entrust the people and political leadership of South Sudan that they may resume a serene dialogue among the various elements of society for the benefit of all the beloved South Sudanese people; and urges respect for ‘our differences’,” the representatives of SSCC concluded.
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