Catholic Peacebuilding Network

Enhancing the study and practice of Catholic peacebuilding


South Sudan: We Stand Together to Make Peace, Now

April 17, 2015 • Kristin Haas

Statement from the South Sudan Council of Churches and the WCC Consultation
on Peace in South Sudan

We stand together to make peace, now

14 – 15 April 2015
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

“When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors
of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews,
Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you’… He said to
them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’
When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the
Holy Spirit’… " (John 20:19, 21, 22)

From 14 to 15 April 2015, a delegation from the South Sudan Council of
Churches (SSCC), comprising the heads of the member churches, the SSCC Chair
and Interim Secretary General, met with a World Council of Churches (WCC)
delegation comprising the Moderator of the WCC Central Committee, Dr Agnes
Abuom, and the WCC General Secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit in Addis Ababa
to discuss peace in South Sudan. The All Africa Conference of Churches was
also represented. The delegations were privileged to be welcomed and hosted
by His Holiness Abune Matthias, Patriarch of Ethiopia, Archbishop of Axum
and Echegue of the See of St Teklehaimanot; His Eminence Abune Berhaneyesus,
Cardinal of the Ethiopian Catholic Church; and Rev Dr Wakseyoum Idosa,
President of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekaneyesus. The meeting was
also addressed by Ambassador Seyoum Mesfin, Chair of the IGAD Special
Envoys. The South Sudanese delegation also met the Ethiopian Prime Minister,
H E Hailemariam Desalegn.

The meeting took place during the Easter Season, when Christians celebrate
new life in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. It was a fitting time to
celebrate the revitalization of the South Sudan Council of Churches by the
power of the Resurrection. The Church has always been an instrument of peace
and played a major role in bringing about the Addis Ababa Agreement in 1972
and the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005, but recently the council of
churches has been less effective. Now SSCC has new leadership and a fresh
commitment from the heads of churches, and hereby announces to the people of
South Sudan and the world that it is determined once again to take a leading
role in bringing peace to South Sudan. The churches of South Sudan are
united as one Church.

The Church believes that the starting point for peace and reconciliation is
the people of South Sudan, not the political parties. The people are
suffering while political and military leaders fail to agree on political
issues; meanwhile, the killing continues.
As the Church leaders said in their message of 26 March 2015:

“there is no moral justification and no excuse to continue fighting and
killing. In the 1955-1972 and 1983-2005 wars we were fighting for our
liberation; what are we fighting for now? It is unacceptable to negotiate
about posts, positions and percentages, about systems of governance, about
wealth-sharing and other such matters, while people are killing and being
killed. The fighting must stop, immediately, and only then can these
political matters be discussed in a meaningful way.”

The people of South Sudan continue to suffer. The trauma of decades of
conflict is being reinforced rather than healed. The rule of law is largely
absent. In many parts of the country there is virtual anarchy, with no
effective government. The culture of revenge reigns supreme, and the longer
the war continues, the more deeply this culture will be ingrained. There is
insecurity and fear; people panic at the smallest alarm. Tribalism is on the
increase. Fighting and forced recruitment continue. Land grabbing and cattle
rustling are causing huge problems.
The economy is deteriorating while crime is increasing. Hunger is on the
increase, humanitarian access is restricted and the health care and
education systems are in decline. Minority groups are being marginalized.
Splinter groups are forming, which no government will be able to control.
The parties are killing the very people who will eventually be asked to
elect them to power. As the Catholic bishops said in their message of 30
January 2015: “A legitimate government is one which is able to bring peace,
development and stability to its people. Any party that continues to fight
the war against the innocent citizens of South Sudan has no legitimacy; once
you are at war amongst yourselves you have already lost your legitimacy!”
South Sudan is bleeding; and its current leaders, both in government and
opposition, appear to have no solution.

Both parties appear to be seeking a military solution to the crisis.
Like two teenage boys testing their strength, they continue to batter away
at each other, regardless of the consequences. So ingrained is the culture
of violence in South Sudan, and so high the level of mistrust and suspicion
between the parties, but even within each party, that we suspect they do not
know how to make peace even if they wished to do so. They have no exit
strategy; they only know violence.
They are talking, but not listening.

The Church now undertakes to begin a peace process to address the mistrust
of the parties and to bring them together to discuss the needs of the people
and the future of the nation in a forum which is less polarised and less
politically charged than other processes. It will not be confined only to
the leaders of the main warring parties but will reach out to military
commanders, politicians, other political parties, civil society and others.
The Church welcomes all efforts to bring peace but intends to play its own
unique role in creating a peace where the interests of the people of South
Sudan are prioritised.

Advocacy was a key role played by the Church in the last war, bringing the
voice of the voiceless into the public arena. The Church will now speak out
again more and more assertively – to the people of South Sudan, to our
political and military leaders, to IGAD, to the AU, to our neighbours and to
the international community at large – and will host visiting delegations
from our brothers and sisters in regional and international churches, and
will reach out and visit them. The international community will be urged to
engage constructively with the people of South Sudan and to avoid taking
measures which may make life more difficult for them. They will also be
urged to continue not only with emergency humanitarian aid but also with
development and capacity-building initiatives. Reducing these activities
will not punish government or warring parties; it will punish the ordinary
people of South Sudan and may eventually contribute to future conflicts.

The church will also use its unique grassroots network to address
longer-term issues of reconciliation and trauma.

Many of our citizens are losing hope, but we continue to hope and to offer
hope. “Jesus said to them, ‘It is I; do not be afraid’ “(John 6:20). The
Church of God, the body of Christ, will not be afraid. SSCC commits itself
to the WCC campaign “Pilgrimage for Justice and Peace.”
The current war in South Sudan cannot be legitimised; it is a senseless war
without meaning, causing destruction for nothing. The Church by its very
nature stands for a just peace.

We stand together to make peace, now.

16 April 2015

View the statement on WCC website