South Sudan churches tell warring sides people are 'tired of war'

(Photo: REUTERS / Andreea Campeanu)South Sudanese President Salva Kiir waves a miniature flag of South Sudan at a rally of the Sudan's People Liberation Movement (SPLM) youth in Juba, February 15, 2014.

When South Sudanese churches met in Addis Ababa with the warring parties in their country, their peace message was clear and simple: "We are tired of war."

"Let us work for peace and rebuild what has been destroyed," said the leaders from all the main churches in the world's newest nation.

The South Sudanese churches conveyed their message in the Ethiopian capital on February 10 where peace talks have yet to seal an end to the hostilities.

There negotiations between the South Sudanese government and Sudan People's Liberation Movement opposition rebels are currently underway following a ceasefire deal signed January 23.

Since December, fighting has displaced more than 720,000 people within South Sudan according to the United Nations and has driven more than 156,000 refugees into neighboring countries.

South Sudan gained independence from its northern neighbour Sudan in July 2011 and churches played a key role in helping broker the process including members of the World Council of Churches.

Aid agencies say both sides have violated a cessation of hostilities agreement and fighting continues raging.

Although South Sudan's inhabitants are extremely poor the nation is believed to have sub-Saharan Africa's third-biggest oil reserves.

The conflict that erupted in December has claimed thousands of lives in the world's newest country.

The South Sudanese Council of Churches stressed the need for "comprehensive peace."

"We are one nation, sharing one identity, rich in culture, blessed by diversity, which is to be celebrated, not resented.

"Let us, therefore, endeavor to build our nation on a strong foundation of truth, justice, reconciliation, diversity and peace. These noble values are drawn from the Gospel and they can provide a solid national foundation for our new republic," the statement said.

The general secretary of the World Council of Churches, Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, reiterated his concerns over violence in the country in a letter to the South Sudanese President Salva Kiir Mayardit, whom he met in April 2013.

Fighting flared after Kiir accused his former vice president, Riek Machar, of fomenting a failed coup pitting members of Kiir's Dinka ethnic group against Machar's Nuer community.

"The people of South Sudan have suffered for several decades and are now longing for peace and justice. We pray that the situation will quickly normalize and that peace will prevail again soon," Tveit said in a letter to Kiir following the conflict in December.

Those who signed the South Sudan church leaders' statement:


Bishop Enock Tombe Stephen, Episcopal Church of South Sudan/Sudan

Bishop Isaiah Majok Dau, Sudan Pentecostal Church

Bishop Arkangelo Wani Lemi, African Inland Church

Rev. Tut Kony Nyang, South Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church

Rev. Peter Gai Lual, Presbyterian Church of South Sudan/Sudan

Isaac Kunguru Kenyi, Catholic Church of South Sudan

Bishop Michael Taban Toro, Chairman, South Sudan Council of Churches (SSCC)

Rev. Mark Akec Cien, Acting General Secretary of SSCC

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