Fr James Oyet Latansio © Claus Grue/WCC

Fr James Oyet Latansio © Claus Grue/WCC

A chat with the general secretary of the South Sudan Council of Churches

* By Claus Grue

"Securing peace for South Sudan". That is how Fr James Oyet Latansio describes today's main challenge for the South Sudan Council of Churches. Since he was appointed general secretary six months ago, he has been on a tireless journey, beating the drum for peace throughout his war-torn country.

"It is important to reach out to people on both a grassroots and elite level", he explains.

Together with local churches around the country, he has gathered people from different tribes and literally beaten the drum.

"When they hear a drumbeat people come and listen. Our message of peace and reconciliation must be heard everywhere, so that we all can work together to implement the peace agreement signed in July. We must plan for peace and focus on building a future for our young country. We must look forward”, concludes Fr James.

He likens the fragile situation in his country to a house which he calls the "House of South Sudan, where the foundation is our faith in God”, the walls are the injuries and pains that his people have endured, while the ceiling resembles repentance and forgiveness.

"That's where we are right now,” he says, ”working on the ceiling by beating the drum for peace, not only in villages all over the country, but also in front of the elite. It is crucial that the churches and their voices for peace and reconciliation are heard everywhere and at every level in society."

The roof will be put in place when reconciliation starts taking place. He envisions a time when a man from one tribe can marry a girl from another tribe, despite earlier atrocities. "My hope will never dilute me. We must look forward and nurture a culture of peace rather than a culture of war", he says. He counts on the World Council of Churches and its member churches as facilitators of the peace  process.

"The churches should always be in the frontline", Fr James emphasizes.

The SSCC is headquartered in Juba and represents 7 member churches spread out over South Sudan:

Episcopal Church of South Sudan

Catholic Church in Republic of South Sudan

SSPEC South Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church

PCOS Presbyterian Church of South Sudan

Africa Inland Church

Sudan Pentecostal Church

Sudan Interior Church

South Sudan WCC member page

* Claus Grue is a communication consultant at the World Council of Churches.