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South Sudanese clergy amplify calls for national thanksgiving

South Sudanese clergy amplify calls for national thanksgiving

During the National Fasting and Prayer for Peace in South Sudan in May 2018. Photo: South Sudan Council of Churches

01 November 2018

* By Fredrick Nzwili

A call to make thanksgiving a priority amplified in South Sudan as the world’s newest nation celebrated the recently signed revitalised peace agreement in Juba city on 31 October.

Dancing and smiling together, thousands of South Sudanese people gathered in the city’s Freedom Square, for celebrations of the peace pact signed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on 12 September.

The agreement, known as the Revitalised Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (R-ARCSS), is expected to end the civil war which ignited in 2013 as a political dispute.

“We need to make thanksgiving a priority. I think this is what is missing,” said Anglican Bishop Moses Deng Bol of Wau diocese ahead of the celebrations. “I have not heard of a national prayer of thanksgiving since the independence in 2005. After the independence, we had started singing that we have liberated ourselves with Kalashnikovs. We never went to say thank you to God.”

For the clergy and ordinary citizens, the pact signifies a turning point in their country. Bol said the celebrations were the beginning and a positive step towards building trust and confidence among the political leaders, one of the biggest challenges in the country.

“I am happy they are coming together in the celebrations without their armies. It would very important for them to become partners in peace,” said Bol. “I believe God has given peace to his people,” said Bol.

David Shearer, the head of UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) said he was pleased with the coming together, in a sign of unity, of groups that were divided by the violent struggle.

“This sends a strong message to the citizens…that they are genuinely committed to the peace agreement and ending of suffering,” said Shearer.

The agreement’s key highlights include the formation of a government of national unity, with Salva Kiir as president and rebel leader Riek Machar as one of the five deputies. It also expands the parliament to 550 legislators and allows 35 ministers. A permanent ceasefire was also agreed. Kiir told the celebrators that the peace was there to stay while Machar said the agreement was the leaders’ hearts and they wanted to implement it.

Although observers say it will take more than the acts by politicians to bring peace to South Sudan, some progress in the implementation so far has created hope for the people.  Some bodies provided for have been formed and are holding meetings. Some political detainees and prisoners of war have been released.

*Fredrick Nzwili is a freelance journalist based in Kenya.

WCC member churches in South Sudan