A Christmas of justice, peace, healing and reconciliation. This is the wish expressed in a joint message from the leaders of the South Sudan’s Christian Churches on behalf of the “children and people of South Sudan, wounded and torn by the conflicts” that the “country has experienced in the last six years” and by a series of “natural disasters and floods” which have had “serious humanitarian implications for its people”, causing “hunger and the spread of diseases”. “Message for peace in respect of our differences” is the title of the Letter written by the South Sudan Council of Churches and signed by the leaders of the Catholic, Episcopal, Presbyterian and Pentecostal communities. The Archbishop of Juba, Mgr. Paolino Luduku, signed it for the Catholic Church, and the Most Revd Justin Badi Arama for the Episcopal Church. The Council recalls the challenges of implementing the “Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS)”, a peace agreement singed by Kiir and Machar in September 2018, thanks to the mediation of the President of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, and the former President of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir (later overthrown in April 2019), an agreement which then collapsed after less than a year.
Even Pope Francis and Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby supported the peace process in South Sudan. In April this year, the Vatican hosted a spiritual retreat which was attended by the civil and ecclesiastical authorities of South Sudan, and in a recent meeting in Rome, the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury reiterated their desire to undertake a joint visit to the country, provided a transitional government of national unity – this is the clause – is set up in the next 100 days (i.e. February 2020). The Christmas Message from the local Christian leaders goes in this direction by encouraging the parties to show their serious commitment to peace and reconciliation. “We see Jesus – South Sudan Christian leaders wrote – in the faces of the children and people of South Sudan who continue to suffer because of growing tensions in the implementation of R-ARCSS. On this festive day, let us ask the Lord for Peace, healing, forgiveness and reconciliation for South Sudan. Let us pray that the will to resume dialogue on issues of concerns and tensions may prevail between the parties and that a negotiated solution can finally be reached, one that would allow the peaceful coexistence of communities of South Sudan”.
The Churches welcome the efforts for a “permanent ceasefire” among the parties and the “positive impact” that this ceasefire is having “on the lives of the people. The Churches, however, are concerned about the ongoing armed conflicts and the failure by all signatories to implement the Agreement. “We call on all these parties to cease all hostilities and use dialogue to resolve their difference. The Church commits to work with all of them to deliver peace to our people. We should unite to make 2020 a year of peace and hope for the people of South Sudan. Peace that will allow children to go to school with joy, women to live without fear, the refugees and displaced to return home in dignity, and the leaders to sit around the table” and discuss “the future of our country”.