Fresh call for lasting peace in South Sudan

The Church of Scotland has joined international calls to redouble efforts to secure lasting peace in South Sudan.

Rt Rev Dr Martin Fair, Moderator of the General Assembly, is among Christian figures and members of the Ecumenical Network on South Sudan (ENSS), who have signed a statement to mark International Day of Peace.

The signatories, which include the Presbyterian Church USA, Bread for the World Germany and Tearfund, said they stand in solidarity with women, men, boys and girls who have for many years borne the burden of conflicts in the troubled African country.

Martin Fair

The Church of Scotland has a partnership with the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan and has been actively involved in trying to secure unity and lasting peace since 2015.

The youngest nation on earth, the country gained independence from Sudan in 2011 and was plunged into a bloody civil war two years later.

New figures suggest that the conflict has led to 7.5 million people requiring humanitarian assistance, more than 2.26 million people have been forced to flee and 1.6 million remain internally displaced.

Unrestricted humanitarian aid

South Sudan is ranked third in terms of countries most vulnerable to the impact of COVID-19, and has one of the largest food crises in the world.

The statement reads: “Despite some progress in bringing peace to the country, we are gravely concerned about the continuation of violence in various areas of the country and the availability of arms which continues to fuel violence in the country.

“We call upon all in South Sudan to respect the dignity of human life as we call for increased preventative, investigative and just efforts to end these devastating acts of violence.

“We call for adequate, multi-year and flexible humanitarian funding, expedited especially to frontline organisations.

“We also urge the Government of South Sudan and other parties to ensure full, unrestricted and unhindered humanitarian access to all regions of the country.”

The theme for the International Day of Peace 2020 is “Shaping Peace Together.”

Humbleness

“For peace to take place in South Sudan, the implementation of the Revitalised Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS) should be a key priority for all parties to the conflict and any other competing interests should be put aside,” the statement says.

“We thus call on the Government of National Unity of South Sudan and all the parties who signed the R-ARCSS to implement the outstanding items to support a lasting peace.”

The South Sudan Council of Churches described the implementation of the agreement as "slow" and appealed to religious leaders of all faiths to support social cohesion and help peacefully resolve grievances.

The Kirk’s work to support South Sudan stems from when former Moderator of the General Assembly, Very Rev Dr John Chalmers, visited the country in 2015.

Since then representatives have worked hard to affect lasting change and have held multiple peace and reconciliation training sessions for South Sudan church leaders in Scotland, in Kenya and in South Sudan with further plans for work in the future.

Dr Chalmers attended a spiritual retreat at the Vatican in Rome with the Archbishop of Canterbury in April 2019.

He said seeing Pope Francis on his knees kissing the feet of South Sudan leaders to encourage them not to return to civil war was a “moving and unprecedented act of humbleness" to appeal for peace and reconciliation.