Christian leaders urge South Sudanese not to miss peace chance

(Photo: REUTERS / Goran Tomasevic)South Sudan's rebel leader Riek Machar (R) and South Sudan's President Salva Kiir (L) hold a priest's hands as they pray before signing a peace agreement in Addis Ababa May 9, 2014.

Church leaders who were part of the negotiations between South Sudan's warring leaders, President Salva Kiir and former vice president Riek Machar, are urging a peace agreement they signed come into immediate effect.

Peace would end a five-month conflict in the world's newest country.

The peace agreement was signed by Kiir and Machar on May 10 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The World Council of Churches which was involved in mediating the pact said Monday, "The situation remains volatile until the truce actually takes effect on the ground."

Church leaders who were present at the signing of the peace agreement in Addis Ababa included Archbishop Paulino Lukudu Loro of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Juba;, Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul Yak of the Episcopal Church of Sudan and Rev. Samuel Kobia, former general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC).

In Addis Ababa, Archbishop Lukudu observed that "all South Sudanese had been waiting for this day for the last five months."

He said this agreement is an opportunity for peace which could not be missed.

This is the time to correct the costly mistakes of the South Sudanese leaders, ending the war now, for all of which churches and the ecumenical community have been advocating for the last two months, Archbishop Lukudu said.

With the agreement signed, the real work starts now, said Kobia, a Kenyan who is ecumenical special envoy for South Sudan and Sudan and representative of the All Africa Conference of Churches.

"We believe that they meant what they said," he said.

Kobia said that now both parties in the conflict have agreed upon common principals, they now must commit themselves to implement the peace agreement fully.


So far an estimated 1 million people have been forced from their homes; of these more than 90,000 people are sheltering in the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) bases across the country.

Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the WCC, called the recent developments in South Sudan negotiations "significant and meaningful" for the churches whose leaders, he said, have been "advocating for peace in the country through various means in the past months."

Tveit said, "The South Sudanese leaders must fulfil their promise.

"The agreement calls for an immediate cessation of conflict and formation of a transitional government, and is a rare opportunity for peace which must not be wasted."

Tveit noted thhat churches have been working for many months to revive the South Sudanese peace process.

Faith leaders were named in the agreement among key stakeholders in the peace process, in negotiation toward a transitional government, national unity and in the process of healing and reconciliation.

Among those named are Anglican Bishop Enock Tombe Stephen; Pentecostal Bishop Isaiah Dau; General Secretary of the Sudan Council of Churches, Rev. Peter Tibi; Isaac Kenyi, executive secretary of the Sudan Catholic Bishops' Conference, and Dr. Nigussu Legesse, the WCC's program executive for Africa advocacy.

The World Council of Churches promotes Christian unity and represents more than 500 faithful from Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican and other traditions in over 140 countries. The WCC works cooperatively with the Roman Catholic Church which serves on some of its bodies.

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