South Sudanese churches asked to lead new peace initiative

 

Presbyterian pastor Peter Gai is SSCC chairperson

By Doug Tilton | Special to the Presbyterian News Service

(Left to right) Mission co-worker Lynn Kandel; Father James Oyet Latansio, general secretary of the South Sudan Council of Churches; and the Rt. Rev. Peter Gai Lual Marrow, moderator of the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan and chairperson of the SSCC. Photo courtesy of the South Sudan Council of Churches

JUBA, South Sudan — The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), a bloc of eight nations in the horn of Africa, has invited the South Sudan Council of Churches (SSCC) to convene a South-South dialogue to strengthen the commitment to peace-building in South Sudan.

IGAD’s Special Envoy to South Sudan, Ambassador Ismail Wais, announced the decision earlier this month in an effort to promote adherence to the Agreement on the Cessation of Hostilities, Protection of Civilians and Humanitarian Access which was signed in December 2017 by a wide range of stakeholders from government, civil society, the faith community and the private sector.

The SSCC has formed committees to discuss various aspects of the peace process, including security and governance. Each committee is chaired by a senior church leader, with IGAD providing logistical support.         

“The parties have committed to silence the guns while the process and momentum are maintained,” a SSCC statement explained. The Council has also appealed to all parties to adhere strictly to the Agreement on the Cessation of Hostilities.

“The whole Church weeps with the suffering people and seeks the light of the resurrection for the people of South Sudan,” said the Rt. Rev. Peter Gai Lual Marrow, moderator of the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan and Sudan and chairperson of the SSCC.

“We have given the negotiating parties a ‘Divine Warning’ stressing the urgency to stop fighting and to make compromises for the sake of the people,” Rev. Gai continued. “We appreciate that the warring parties have called the church to bring them together as a sign of trust. Therefore we will continue to pray for them, listen to them and urge them towards peace.”

The people of South Sudan have been caught in a power struggle between supporters of president Salva Kiir and his former deputy president, Riek Machar, since December 2013, just two and a half years after the referendum that established South Sudan as an independent state. Both sides have sought to use ethnic identity as a means of mobilize supporters, adding to the volatility of the situation. A 2015 peace agreement, brokered by IGAD, collapsed the following year, and several ceasefire agreements have failed to hold.

In December 2017, IGAD launched the High-Level Revitalization Forum (HLRF) to revive the peace process, securing broad support for the current peace agreement. Church leaders have been working diligently throughout the past four years to promote peace and to enhance people’s security and access to humanitarian relief.


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