Church leaders in South Sudan release joint Christmas message

South Sudan's President Salva Kiir Mayardit and former Vice Pesident and rebel leader Riek Machar, recently, in Juba (PETERLOUIS)

As “human, societal and environmental decline” continues, various church leaders in South Sudan signed a joint Christmas message, urging respect for differences and increased efforts for peace in the country.

The letter, released by the South Sudan Council of Churches (SSCC), was signed by bishops and leaders of the country’s Catholic Church, the Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Church and the Pentecostal Church. Among them was the Catholic Metropolitan Archbishop of Juba, Paolino Lukudu Loro.

“The first people to see humbly glory of the Saviour, after Mary and Joseph, were the shepherds”, the letter reads, “and they were not scandalized by his poverty. Rather, like Mary, they contemplate his glory with simple eyes”.

Blowing winds of challenges

While recognising the ongoing conflicts and continuing hardships of the people in the country, despite last year’s “Revitalized Agreement for the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan”, the church leaders urged people to recognise in the face of the Child Jesus the faces of all those who suffer in the country.

“On this festive day, let us ask the Lord for Peace, Healing, Forgiveness and Reconciliation for South Sudan”, they said, while expressing their hope that the will to resume dialogue might prevail, and that a solution might finally be reached.

“We see Jesus in the faces of the children and people of South Sudan”

The church leaders encouraged people to recognise the face of Jesus in all those wounded by conflict, those who go hungry and suffer from diseases, those without a home and a job, and those children who have been forced to work or to enrol as soldiers.

“May we at least recover respect for the dignity of every person through a shared commitment to rebuild the fabric of society, without regard for ethnic membership”.

Notwithstanding all the challenges, the SSCC did praise those parties who had chosen to comply with the Agreement. At the same time they urged the non-signatories to cease all hostilities, and to choose the path of dialogue.

“Let us unite to make 2020 a year of peace and hope for the people of South Sudan!” was the letter’s plea.

“Blessed are the peace makers”

The church leaders went on the thank all those who have contributed to the advancing of peace in South Sudan, including those who facilitate meetings across parties and all the humanitarian organisations.

The letter also welcomes the election of the South Sudanese Prime Minister, Abdallah Hamdock, as the new Chairman of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, and called on him to make peace efforts in the country his first priority.

The SSCC did, however, express their concern at the slow implementation of the peace agreement, stating that “continuous delays would mean extension of the suffering if the people and shattering their hopes for lasting peace in the country.”

Finally they entrusted the people and political leadership to the Baby Jesus, praying that “they may resume a serene dialogue among the various elements of society for the benefit of all the beloved South Sudanese people.”