Letters from South Sudan

Sr. Ranjitha Maria Soosai, a member of the Daughters of Mary Immaculate, leads a group of children in singing inside a camp for internally displaced families at a U.N. base in Juba, South Sudan in April. The camp holds more than 20,000 Nuer who took refuge the re in December 2013 after a political dispute within the country's ruling party quickly fractured the young nation along ethnic and tribal lines. (CNS photo/Paul Jeffrey)

"It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard."
(Acts of the Apostles 4:20)

Seventy-five representatives of the 29 Catholic religious congregations that are part of the Religious Superiors’ Association of South Sudan (RSASS) have called for a rejection of violence and for government leaders to honor a May 9 peace agreement.

The RSASS met in Juba May 13 to 15 for their annual assembly.

The congregations have been working in missions, parishes, schools and hospitals in the seven dioceses of South Sudan since 2005, at the conclusion of a 20-year civil war, when bishops there invited international religious communities to serve in South Sudan (which became independent in 2011). Violence continues, especially after December 2013 and despite the recent peace agreement.

Comboni Fr. Daniele Moschetti, MCCJ, chair of RSASS, signed the May 15 statement. It is a series of appreciations – for the work of churches, humanitarian agencies and  United Nations (which runs the camps for the nearly one million displaced persons) and for the fact that parties have signed the peace agreement – but expresses condemnation of those who continue to perpetrate violence. Paragraphs are anchored with verses from the New and Old Testaments.

The statement offers sympathy and prayer for the thousands who have fallen victim to the violence, and for the hundreds of thousands who have lost homes, family, possessions, livelihood and opportunities.

From the statement:

We cannot remain indifferent to the cry of the poor and the innocent who have lost their lives or are going through deep suffering and pain.
"Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the soil" (Genesis 4:10).

We are in solidarity also with the members of the religious congregations (brothers, sisters and priests) who suffered harassments, narrowly escaped death and had their residences, churches, schools, hospitals and radio station attacked, looted and partially destroyed in Malakal, Leer, Ayod and Renk. We thank them for their great witness of solidarity and common cause with the people they are called to serve and grateful to God for saving and protecting their lives.

We equally express our solidarity with the local clergy and other church personnel of the Diocese of Malakal and with the pastors of other Christian communities, as well as the people of other religions, who were forced to leave their homes, parishes, communities and the people entrusted to their pastoral care and seek refuge in Juba and other places because of violence and insecurity in the states of Jonglei, Upper Nile and Unity.
“I have witnessed the affliction of my people . . . and have heard their cry . . . I know well what they are suffering” (Exodus 3:7).

Today is five months since conflicts began in South Sudan; we say NO to all kind of violence or whatever action that degrades human life and its dignity. Too much blood has been shed in this land. Too many lives have been lost. Too much destruction has taken place. We want peace, stability and development to all citizens of our young nation.

Therefore, we call on our brothers the President of South Sudan, Salva Kiir Mayardit, and on Dr. Riek Machar to honour the signed peace agreement to resolve the crisis in South Sudan and to seek sustainable peace and reconciliation through political dialogue. Both government and rebel forces must be disciplined and kept under full control. Also, the international conventions on war and human rights must be fully observed. Let us not forget those who lost their lives.
“Wash yourselves clean! Put away your misdeeds from before my eyes; cease doing evil; learn to do good. Make justice your aim: redress the wronged, hear the orphan’s plea, defend the widow. Come now, let us set things right, says the Lord” (Isaiah 1:16-18).

We remind all South Sudanese that God created people of every clan, tribe and nationality to live in peace, harmony and unity. We ask God to forgive our sins for the times we failed to live in peace and to heal our wounds and help us to be reconciled with one another. We are South Sudanese, sons and daughters of God, irrespective of ethnicity, colour and creed. Let us refrain from violence and seek justice, peace and reconciliation through the right channels and in a non-violent way.
Take every care to preserve the unity of the Spirit by the peace that binds you together” (Ephesians 4:3).

Finally, we men and women of Consecrated Life in the Catholic Church of South Sudan reiterate our full collaboration, in communion with the local Churches and other stakeholders, with the national healing process so that justice, peace and true reconciliation may be established in South Sudan. We will continue to serve the people of this young nation in a spirit of solidarity, joy and with hope for a better future.
“Behold, I make all things new” (Revelation 21:5).

For more information, see Solidarity with South Sudan, a consortium of 200 religious congregations engaged in training teachers, nurses and pastoral workers in the country to support the humanitarian work.