World Council of Churches joins Pope Francis' call for day of prayer for South Sudan and Congo
The World Council of Churches says it has joined the Feb. 23 call by Pope Francis for a worldwide day of prayer and fasting for South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo; two countries plagued by conflict, unrest and famine.
The WCC said in a Feb. 20 statement it is heeding Pope Francis' call to prayer and it is encouraging all its member church to join.
The South Sudan Council of Churches, a group that includes Anglican, Catholic, Pentecostal, and Presbyterian churches, as well as other Protestant traditions welcomed Pope Francis' announcement.
"This is actually the second time he calls for a prayer for South Sudan.
"It means a lot to know that we are not alone in our suffering and pain. The ecumenical world is with us on our journey towards peace and reconciliation," said Father James Oyet Latansio, the SSCC general secretary.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, 4.3 million people are displaced throughout the country and 13.1 million people will be in need of humanitarian assistance throughout the country this year.
In South Sudan, the world's newest nation, 2 million people have fled the young nation as refugees and about 1.9 million people are internally displaced, over the past four years of conflict.
With 7 million people inside the country - this is almost two-thirds of the remaining population - still in need of humanitarian assistance.
Children, young men, and women have been among the most affected. Millions of women and girls are exposed to gender-based violence in these crisis-affected areas.
Earlier this month, the SSCC issued a pastoral letter to the government of South Sudan and the opposition urging them to compromise.
"They have been discussing revitalization of the peace of 2016 and we, as their church, their pastors and spiritual leaders, now call upon them to consider the sufferings and pains of the people of South Sudan.
"We call upon them to exercise restraint, forgiveness, tolerance, love and reconciliation," Latansio explained.
Since their independence in 2011, the people of South Sudan have endured famine, civil war and atrocities which has displaced millions and created a huge refugee-wave across the borders to Uganda and Kenya.
"It has been a turbulent time with man-made hunger and famine, where especially women and children have suffered. The situation is still bad, and people live in fear," said Latansio, who has been robbed at gunpoint in his hometown Juba.
He welcomed the Pope's announcement which reinforces the messages of peace from the churches in South Sudan.
The call for prayer coincides with Lent, which for Catholics is a period of fasting, conversion, prayers and renewal. Lent started on 14 February and lasts for 40 days.
The call from the Vatican came when Latansio attended a meeting for religious leaders at the United Nations in Vienna to prevent incitement to violence that could lead to atrocity crimes.
"At this very important meeting concrete commitments were made by church leaders and other actors all over the world to turn strategies against hate speech and incitement to violence into action.
"Along with the call from Pope Francis, that reinforces me to continue advocating – and beating the drum in my country – for justice and peace," concluded Latansio.