The Church must have integrity to play its role as peace maker, says bishop

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The church in South Sudan has been called to rise above ethnicity and embrace integrity if it has to help restore peace in the country. This was said by a leading church leader in South Sudan.

enock tombeSpeaking to a group of Christian leaders working with non-governmental organisations that support peace building activities, Bishop Enock Tombe (left) of Episcopal Church of South Sudan and Sudan (ECSS&S), Rejaf diocese, said the Church must repent for its sins and failure to live up to God’s standards as described in 1 Peter 2:9-12.

Bishop Tombe said that a faith-based programme of national day of repentance should be planned and implemented all over the country, because of the violence that had happened in the country, based on the example in Jonah 2 and Isaiah 18.
He regretted that the Church was not able to detect early the reoccurrence of violence in July 2016 because it was not united. He said the Church was either far from the government or got co-opted by the government.

He was referring to the violence that erupted early July in Juba, between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and those loyal to DR. Riek Machar, adding that tere is now a threat of the situation developing into a full scale civil war in the whole country, if the transitional government of national unity (TGoNU) fails to address grievances of those carrying arms against the government.

“The Christian identity is now marred by tribalism, nepotism, hate speech and pride, instead of bearing the fruit of the Spirit (love, patience, joy, kindness, faithfulness, self-control, peace, forbearance and gentleness as listed in Galatians 5:22-23),” he said.
Bishop Tombe said the Church was disobedient to the Lord Jesus Christ who said that people will know believers by their love for one another.
“It is possible to describe the Church in South Sudan as lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, like the Church of Laodiceans” (in the Bible), he said.

High illiteracy levels in the country
He decried the high illiteracy levels in the country, which had also affected the Church (the National Human Development Report 2015 for South Sudan put the level of illiteracy for men at 60%, and women at 85%)
“With these high levels of illiteracy, how could one expect the Church in South Sudan to be different from the rest of the society?” he said. “It is a known fact that illiterate people lack knowledge and skills to improve their standard of living.”
While saying that the church had not entirely failed, Bishop Tombe said Church leaders in South Sudan, like other sections of society, had low morale and were suffering from fear, insecurity, hunger and trauma.
To rectify some of the challenges facing the Church, he said the Church needs to be supported to play its watchdog role effectively.
“The South Sudan Council of Churches (SSCC) should be assisted by its partners to put its house in order so that it can facilitate the work of Church in South Sudan, including opening up registration of new members, restructuring the Secretariat in Juba and the Regional offices in Upper Nile, Bahr el Ghazal and Equatoria,” he said.
He also recommended that all churches must engage in disciple making based on the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20. He added that the Church should collaborate with Muslims and followers of African Traditional Religion (ATR) by promoting positive values drawn from those religious beliefs and local cultures.
Additionally, he said the Church should hold regular dialogue with state authorities so as to improve working relations, understand the role of each institution and to contribute towards socio-economic development policies.
Bishop Tombe was speaking in a conference in Juba, organized by the Great Lakes Initiative South Sudan Working Group. The conference provided an opportunity for Church leaders to come together and gain better understanding of the unfolding socio-economic and political situation in the country.

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