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South Sudan church leaders' message on conflict in South Sudan

Message from South Sudanese church leaders, following a meeting organized by the South Sudan Council of Churches (SSCC) in Juba, from 18 to 26 March 2015 to reflect on situation of conflict in the country and the collapse of the IGAD peace talks.

17 April 2015

"Let us return to God and confess our sins"

"...If you come back to me and obey my commands, this is what I will do: Even if your people have been forced to leave their homes and go to the ends of the earth, I will gather them from there. And I will bring them back to the place I have chosen to put my name" (Nehemiah 1:9)

We, the leaders of the Church of South Sudan, have met under the auspices of the South Sudan Council of Churches (SSCC) in Juba on 18th and 26th March 2015 to reflect on the tragic situation of conflict in our nation and the recent collapse of the IGAD peace talks. We meet as the Church of God in South Sudan, and we speak with divine authority.

We appreciate all those who have tried to bring peace to our nation, including IGAD, AU, UN, the Troika and other regional and international actors. We are deeply saddened by the ongoing conflict and suffering, and by the failure of all the parties to the conflict, the mediators, and the regional and international community to bring an end to the evil of war. While we welcome outside assistance, we believe that ultimately it is the responsibility of the people of South Sudan to resolve their own problems.

We are heartened by the Message from HE Hailemariam Dessalegn, the Prime Minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and the Chairperson of the IGAD Assembly, to the People of South Sudan on 6th March 2015. We wish to reflect on some of his points.

1. Form a transitional government of national unity

We urge the parties to honour the February 2015 agreement and to form a transitional government of national unity as soon as possible.

2. Table a reasonable and comprehensive solution to end the crisis in South Sudan

We believe that many of the leaders involved in the conflict genuinely can't see how to make peace; they can't see a way out of the pit they have fallen into. If the parties are unable to reach agreement by themselves, then they must be persuaded to accept a solution which neutral parties and friends of South Sudan, and more especially the ordinary citizens of South Sudan, consider to be “reasonable”.

3. End the war now... Peace is needed, and is needed now

We, the Church leaders, have consistently stated that there is no moral justification and no excuse to continue fighting and killing. In the 1955-1972 and 1983-2005 wars we were fighting for our liberation; what are we fighting for now? It is unacceptable to negotiate about posts, positions and percentages, about systems of governance, about wealth-sharing and other such matters, while people are killing and being killed. The fighting must stop, immediately, and only then can these political matters be discussed in a meaningful way. The parties have already signed a number of Cessation of Hostilities agreements and ignored them; we insist that they be honoured without further delay.

4. Make the compromises that have so far eluded the Parties

Compromises are difficult when there is a complete lack of trust between the parties, and when each is promoting its own interests. The Church is trusted by the people of South Sudan and has no interests except those of the people, for peace and justice. We ourselves will create a forum to help the parties to build trust and to discover where compromises can be made.

5. Convince those that remain intransigent

The Church is politically neutral in this conflict. However the Church cannot be neutral about injustice and killing. We will identify those who are intransigent and attempt to persuade them to mend their ways.

6. Ensure that the voices of the silent majority of South Sudanese prevail

The Church has a long record of empowering “the silent majority of South Sudanese”. We pledge to continue to bring the voice of the voiceless to the warring parties, the regional powers and the international community. We are ready to undertake international advocacy as we did so successfully during the previous conflicts and in the run-up to the referendum.

7. Refuse to support those who militate for war, destruction and killing

The leaders are not in the front line. The killing is being done by others. We call upon the people of South Sudan to refuse to fight in this senseless conflict. We pledge ourselves to inform the grassroots communities what is really going on, as we believe many of their leaders are misleading them, encouraging them with stories of ethnic conflict and revenge rather than urging them to reconcile and bring peace. We call upon the parties to allow the IGAD mediators to go to the grassroots to brief the people on developments in the peace talks, as we believe many of our communities on the ground are not aware, and again are being misled by their leaders.

8. Do not lose hope

As Christians, we always have hope. When times are dark we remember that Christ suffered and died but then rose from the dead. Christ remains with us, and the Holy Spirit gives us strength and endurance.

The people of South Sudan have experienced many decades of conflict, but we are confident that, with God's help, we will overcome the evil in our midst and will move forward in peace and justice.

In addition, we urge the parties to honour the agreement on the re-unification of SPLM which they signed in Arusha recently. We believe the Arusha process has the potential to complement the IGAD peace process.

This is a defining moment in the life of our Church and our nation. It is a time for the Church to act. As we write, our South Sudan Council of Churches is being renewed in order to meet the challenges. It will strengthen its oversight of and support for the Faith-Based Organisations group in Addis Ababa and for the Church-led Committee for National Healing, Peace and Reconciliation. We will seek to meet the leaders of the different parties, the IGAD mediators, regional leaders, regional and international church bodies, and the international community, to impress on them the urgency of stopping the killing. We will make it clear to all concerned that the current attitude of the negotiating parties is unacceptable, and we will do whatever we can to help them to break the deadlock.

We call upon all South Sudanese, but particularly the political and military leaders and those carrying arms, not to pursue selfish interests but those of others (cf Philippians 2:4). Put the interests of the nation above your own.

May God bless you all.

Signed in Juba on 26 March 2015

Rt. Rev. Peter Gai Lual
South Sudan Council of Churches (SSCC)

Archbishop Poulino Lukudu Loro
Catholic Archdiocese of Juba

Archbishop Dr. Daniel Deng Bul
Episcopal Church of South Sudan and Sudan

Bishop Dr Arkangelo Wani Lemi
African Inland Church

Bishop Dr Isaiah Majok Dau
Sudan Pentecostal Church

Rt. Rev. James Par Tap
South Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church

Rev. James Koung Ninrew
Presbyterian Church of South Sudan- Juba

Mr. Abraham Kwai Chengkou
Acting General Secretary
South Sudan Council of Churches (SSCC)