South Sudan Church leaders to work for healing of the nation

Opinion
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“Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9)       

“Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9)       

[Nairobi, Kenya, TCT] The nation of South Sudan has not known peace from the time it got its independence from Sudan in 2011. This independence came after many years of struggle and lots of blood that was shed by thousands of citizens who fought against oppression from the North.

There were hopes and high expectations that things would change for the better. But, alas! This was not to be. Brother has turned against brother and sister against sister. Parents have turned against their children while children have turned against their parents.

Security forces, which in normal circumstances would protect civilians, have now turned their guns against civilians. The latest violence that erupted in July saw a sharp increase in the number of women and girls who have been sexually abused by men who should offer them protection. The UN said it had documented at least 217 cases of sexual violence in Juba between 8 and 25 July.

It is therefore encouraging to read of reports that, in the midst of these discouraging events, church leaders recently met and decided to put aside their differences and work for peace and reconciliation in South Sudan. They agreed to be united in seeking for peaceful solutions to the problems bedeviling the country.

The church leaders, meeting under the auspices of South Sudan Council of Churches, met in Juba and came up with recommendations to help steer the nation in the right direction at this time when political leaders are still dithering and bickering, while many civilians are suffering and living in fear.

While we agree with the statement by President Salva Kiir that there is normalcy in Juba, this does not necessarily mean that life is normal for many people. During a recent visit by ecumenical church leaders from the World Council of Churches and the All Africa Conference of Churches, one church leader from South Sudan said there was a lot of fear and uncertainty among the people.

It has been said that peace is not just the absence of violence but the presence of justice.

While the church is working for peace in the current situation, it should not forget to ask for justice for those who have suffered human rights violations.

One of the key elements of the peace accord that was signed last year in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, was that it required the African Union (AU) to set up a hybrid court for South Sudan, to investigate and prosecute individuals suspected of committing genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity since the conflict began in December 2013.

But up to now, no one has been tried for human rights violations that have taken place since 2013. Those who suffered at the hands of soldiers and civilians are yet to get any kind of compensation for their suffering. The blood of those who died must still be crying for justice!

We applaud what the church leaders are doing because that is what is expected of them. They will have their reward for making peace, as the Scriptures say. They are shepherds of all South Sudanese irrespective of tribe, religion or social status. They should indeed speak with one voice for the sake of those who are voiceless and who are oppressed.

And while they are at it, let them not forget to talk about issues of justice and equity. Because without justice, the peace they seek will not be sustainable.

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