World Council of Churches backs South Sudan church leaders in peace bid

(Photo: Mohamed Nureldin)A South Sudanese worshipper arrives to attend Sunday prayers in Baraka Parish church at Hajj Yusuf, on the outskirts of Khartoum, February 10, 2013. Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir has said he wants to adopt a "100 percent" Islamic constitution now that the South has split off. The government says the new constitution will guarantee religious freedom, but many Christians are wary. They say authorities started a crackdown in December and it has been getting worse.

The World Council of Churches has pledged its support to church leaders in South Sudan working for peace as the tragic conflict in the world's newest nation has moved into its 18th month.

Past peace talks the churches have helped broker have, however, floundered.

The WCC's executive committee meeting in Armenia's capital city of capital city of Yerevan on June 11 noted the alarming situation in South Sudan where people continue to be killed, raped, displaced and tortured.

"The humanitarian situation is reported to be deteriorating," said the WCC in a statement during the June 8 to13 meeting of the executive body .

The U.S.-based Enough Project on June 10 released a report describing competing political and economic interests of South Sudan's neighbors undermining regional willingness to take action against the warring parties.

"The warring parties have little interest in making compromises for peace when there is no cost for not doing so.

"Neither the region nor the international community have held South Sudan's leaders to commitments made at the negotiating table, including nine signed agreements to cease hostilities, all of which have been violated within days."

It said continued inaction by the region and international community have reinforced "a culture of impunity as the conflict on the ground has intensified."

Enough Project said that in order to bring the conflict to an end, the United States and other key international partners must take steps to ensure that regional interests and strategies are aligned with multilateral efforts to increase pressure on the warring parties.

For their part, the 25 South Sudan church leaders and representatives from the member churches of the South Sudan Council of Churches gathered in Kigali, Rwanda for a retreat from June 1 to 7.


Present were members of the laity, the World Council of Churches and partners to reflect and propose a plan to achieve peace and reconciliation in South Sudan.

"We lament that sustainable peace has not been attained in South Sudan," said Dr. Agnes Abuom, moderator of the main governing body of the WCC, its central committee

"Peace must be sustained and it must be peace with justice. People's lives are in danger, the whole country cries out in pain," she urged.

"We pray for the church leaders in their efforts to make peace and reconciliation, and for the conflicting parties to listen to the voice of the church leaders."

Abuom said the WCC supports the church in South Sudan during such difficult times and has a long commitment in the region of more than 40 years and it supports the church leaders' June 7 statement.

The leaders from the South Sudan Council of Churches said June 7 "We have repeatedly stated that this is a senseless war which must stop immediately.

"There is no moral justification to continue killing ourselves, regardless of any legitimate political issues with government or opposition."

They noted, "A cessation of hostilities must be implemented before any detailed negotiations for the future; it is unacceptable to negotiate posts and positions while people are killing and being killed."

The church leaders said negotiations are about to begin again while innocents continue to suffer.

"The needs of the people must be met, not the needs of political and military elites. It appears that pride, power and politics have become a greater priority than peace."

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