WCC director for the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs Peter Prove expressed appreciation for the progress made in implementing the Revitalized Agreement for the Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan signed in September 2018.
“However,” Prove noted, “this progress has been limited to the formation of the unity government, establishment of institutions, allocation of states and responsibility in sharing of power among the protagonists.” He called attention to the fact that millions of South Sudanese continue to live in deplorable conditions—both inside and outside the borders of the country—and the steps taken towards implementation of the peace agreement have not yet addressed their urgent needs.
“Ordinary South Sudanese people continue to bear the burden of insecurity, displacement, economic meltdown and natural disasters, while the natural resources of the country continue to be exploited primarily for the benefit of the ruling elites,” Prove said. “Likewise, though important steps have been taken in the current constitution making process, progress has been painfully slow.”
In July this year, South Sudan will mark 11 years of independence. “But the hopes, expectations, and joyful celebrations following independence were betrayed just two years later, when civil war first broke out in 2013, and by the persistence of conflict and its consequences ever since,” said Prove. ”Of South Sudan’s 11 years of independence, for the majority of South Sudanese, nine years have been spent either in camps or in exile, with close to one million refugees living outside the country.”
The long struggle of the people of South Sudan for justice, freedom, equality, dignity, political and economic emancipation remains an unfulfilled dream, said Prove.
“We have heard too many heartbreaking stories from South Sudanese refugees and internally displaced people, of the loss of loved ones, displacement from homes and communities, and the forced separation of family members,” he said. “We hear the stories of inadequate food rations, inadequate medical facilities, and limited access to education, especially secondary education, for the millions of South Sudanese who continue to need humanitarian support.”
Other stories tell of early marriages among teenagers, rape, drug use, and conflicts within settlements, Prove continued, reflecting that all these experiences have led to a feeling of hopelessness and despair.
In the midst of all this, the church has remained the only source of hope for the people of South Sudan, while the government has failed to fulfil its responsibilities to them, Prove noted.
“The World Council of Churches expresses its solidarity with the refugees, the internally displaced people, the children, youth, women and men of South Sudan, and commends the pastoral role of the churches in South Sudan, through the South Sudan Council of Churches, and calls upon the churches to continue being the voice of the voiceless in their prophetic engagement with the government and authorities of South Sudan,” he said. “We pray that the South Sudan Council of Churches will be supported and strengthened for its continuing and essential ministry for peace, reconciliation, healing and unity among the people of South Sudan.”
The WCC continues to call on leaders in South Sudan, as well as the whole international community, to engage and apply pressure on the political leadership in Juba to recognize the need and urgency of fully implementing the peace agreement, including engaging the non-signatories in a productive and genuine dialogue.
“The World Council of Churches reaffirms its solidarity with the people of South Sudan, and calls on all to respect the dignity and rights of everyone, so that all the people of South Sudan can freely return home and live in harmony, unity and peace, in their homeland,” concluded Prove.