Seven years on, the all-out war, which had spread across the country leaving behind a trail of death and destruction has since ended, but widespread violence has ensued, causing more deaths and suffering for the people who have experienced war for many years.
Now, the church leaders have re-committed to the action plan to accelerate the search for peace in the east African nation.
“We…affirm our commitment to our Action Plan for Peace. From the beginning, we insisted that our goal was not to stop the war, but also prevent new war from springing up. Thus, we pledge to continue our efforts to bring about lasting just peace in our nation through spiritual renewal, advocacy, dialogue, reconciliation and trauma healing…” said the head of the member churches of the South Sudan Council of Churches in a statement on 29 April.
The church leaders—from the Roman Catholic, Episcopal (Anglican), Presbyterian, African Inland and Pentecostal Churches—had released the statement after a 26- 29 April meeting in Lukenya, near Nairobi. Retired church leaders, technical experts and international partners attended the conference, which reviewed the efforts of the churches in peace building and discussed how to take the work forward.
Of the more than 11 million population, the majority in South Sudan are Christians, with a sizable number adhering to African traditional religions. The country became an independent state in 2011 after two decades of armed struggle, but a civil war triggered two years after the independence. By the time it ended with the signing of the 2018 Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS), an estimated 400,000 people had been killed and an estimated 4 million displaced, according to agencies.
While warning that peace and justice will not come through political and technical mechanisms alone, but transformation of all their leaders and the people, the leaders said they will deepen their efforts for spiritual renewal in the nation and the people.
“We are still killing ourselves and the people are suffering,” said the leaders. “We insist once again that conflicts must be resolved through non-violent means, but we go further and call for a new culture and lifestyle of nonviolence throughout our society, in government, in our political and military factions, in our communities, in our homes and in our hearts.”
The leaders welcomed the R-ARCSS and the formation of the transitional government, but regretted the slow implementation of some of the pacts clauses, the lack of political will amongst many of the signatories, and the failure to address the root causes of the conflict.
“We regret that a number of armed parties have felt unable to sign the R-ARCSS and we support the efforts of the community of Sant’Egidio and others to achieve more inclusive agreement,” said the leaders.
Some of the key features of the South Sudan Council of Churches Action Plan for Peace include local and international public mobilization and support to political peace processes. The plan also seeks to assemble opposite sides of conflict in neutral spaces where they can dialogue on peace. Other features include trauma healing, mediation and reconciliation campaigns.