(Above) South Sudanese women from different denominations cry for peace during a meeting called to pray and fast for peace and reconciliation in the country.
Christians in South Sudan have said the warring parties in the country should resolve their differences in an amicable way for the country to have a peaceful and prosperous year.
While marking the Christmas festivities, they told TCT of their hopes and disappointments while celebrating this year’s Christmas and the New Year.
On December 25, Christians in Yei celebrated Christmas day by holding morning prayers. The usual Christmas vigils on Christmas Eve were cancelled due to fears of insecurity.
On Christmas day, gunshots were heard near Emmanuel Cathedral of the Episcopal Church of Sudan and South Sudan (ECSSS).
Bishop Hillary Luate Adeba told those present that the shootings were the “intentions of the devil”, adding that true believers would fear God and his people.
Meanwhile, Yei River State governor David Lokonga Moses said the government was “in full control of the security situation”.
South Sudan slithered into civil war in 2013 following political differences between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and those loyal to his former first president Riek Machar. Extended violence after the peace was signed in August 2015 has led to loss of lives, displacement of citizens and a deteriorating humanitarian situation.
Since December 2013, Christians have marked three Christmas festivities in conflict as parties to the agreement struggle to implement the fragile peace.
Christians told TCT that though Christmas and New Year festivities are some key important days that they used to mark with joy, happiness and in peace, it has been spoilt with grief, death and killings.
Martin Ale said South Sudanese refuges and internally displaced people will return home and mark New Year’s festive season in peace if lasting peace prevails. He said concentrated prayers are needed to supplement ongoing efforts to bring peace to South Sudan.
“I want to tell our government that let them stand firm and sit down with those in the bush so that our brothers and sisters who have run to Uganda or DR Congo will come back, then we will celebrate with them one day in peace and love,” he told TCT after attending Christmas prayer at Christ the King Cathedral.
“South Sudanese displaced by conflict are praying under trees and yet they have built churches”
Angelo Ladu, another Christian expressed unhappiness that South Sudanese displaced by conflict are praying under trees and yet they have built churches.
“Those who are displaced in the rural areas are praying under trees. We pray that as they pray under mango trees, let them take courage,” he said.
Ladu stressed the need for South Sudanese to practice personal security by desisting from over drinking, moving late at night and involving themselves in criminal activities.
“I am happy that we are still alive today,” said John Makuei Akech. He said although insecurity has “imprisoned” many people, he was happy to see Christians boldly pray for peace on Christmas day.
“I have seen the joy and this morning, Christians started celebrating with drums beat at dawn,” he said.
Charity Danga Uma, a mother who turned out for Christmas prayer, said if South Sudanese believe in what is in the Bible, there would not be hatred, divisions and killings in the country.
“We need to live as children of God with faith and love for one another without saying this one is different from us,” she said.
For Kennedy Data, South Sudanese people should renew their faith and shun bad deeds such as killings, looting and acts that trigger suffering and deaths.
“Let us change our hearts, we are all one. The image that we kill is that of God. God does not divide people. I wish these festivities to be of love and to bring us peace,” he said.
Meanwhile, Rose Atiyo said “we need these days to be respected. For many years now, we have been suffering and now God has brought us to a new year, let us bring peace”.
Millions of South Sudanese have been displaced internally while more than a million have taken refuge outside the country since the fighting erupted in 2013, which has been worsened by the 2016 July clashes.