South Sudanese church leaders said in their Easter message that the Church stays committed to hope and refuses “to yield to fear or indifference” in their troubled homeland where the end of a bitter conflict seems elusive once again.
The South Sudan Council of Churches (SSCC) issued its Easter message on 29 March saying it will continue to “stand and speak with one prophetic voice, in the face of war, violence and hunger” in their landlocked nation.
The SSCC is an ecumenical body incorporating all the major Christian traditions in their country. Its chair Rev. Peter Gai Lual Marrow, of the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan and Sudan and Father James Oyet-Latansio, its Roman Catholic general secretary said they have returned from a recent visit to Rome with a message of solidarity from Pope Francis for which they thanked him.
“The whole Church weeps with the suffering people, reflects on its journey towards peace and seeks for the Light of Resurrection for the people of South Sudan,” the South Sudan Council of Churches said in its message.
It came at time that media and aid organizations report that prospects of a lasting peace in South Sudan, which got its independence from Sudan in 2011, appear bleak as the gap between the government proposals and those of the opposition group had widened recently.
‘A harder Lenten season’
“This Lenten season has been harder than previous years, even as millions of South Sudanese are still seeking to find a way forward and the entire Church continues to suffer the Way of the Cross".
“This man-made catastrophe needs an urgent solution, but first a self-realization on how human weaknesses and failures have led to this most terrible situation,” said the South Sudanese church leaders who have toiled for years to try to sow peace in their divided land.
The civil conflict engulfing Africa’s youngest nation since 2014 along with lingering threats of famine have denied South Sudanese access to a decent life and it is one of the United Nations four biggest peace-keeping operations.
There are at least 5.5 million people estimated to be currently severely food insecure and at least 7.5 million people across South Sudan - almost two thirds of the population - need humanitarian assistance.
Quoting from the gospel of Luke (1 9: 42, 44), the SSCC said, "If you only knew today what is needed for peace! But now you cannot see it! They will completely destroy you and the people within your walls; not a single stone will they leave in its place, because you did not recognize the time when God came to save you!"
The church leaders said they have been to the High-Level Revitalization Forum (HLRF) in Addis Ababa.
‘Divine warning’ for negotiating parties
There they have “given the negotiating parties a 'divine warning'”, stressing the urgency to stop fighting and to make compromises for the sake of the people of South Sudan.
“We appreciate that the warring parties have called the Church to bring them together, as a sign of trust. Therefore, we will continue to pray for, listen to and urge them towards Peace,” said the SSCC.
The churches are seeking to “re-establish the moral and spiritual fabric” of their country, the world’s newest, but that they said, “already suffers from the numerous ailments of our times”.
“In the words of St. Paul: "If someone has done you wrong, do not repay him with a wrong. Try to do what everyone considers to be good. Do everything possible on your part to live in peace with everybody." (Romans 1 2: 17 - 1 8),” the SSCC urged.