PHOTO: South Sudanese Christians in Maridi Diocese sharing bread and tea
2020 must be the year to throw away “the old and outdated practices of hatred”. So says the Archbishop of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan in his New Year message.
In an open letter to “my fellow South Sudanese”, the Most Rev Justin Badi Arama introduced the Church’s focus for the year ahead: the phrase from the Lord’s Prayer “Thy Kingdom Come”.
“To request for God’s kingdom to come means to request for God’s rule to be practical in the lives and hearts of his children,” he writes.
“This means our decisions, our actions must always reflect kingdom values of love, peace, forgiveness and reconciliation. The old and outdated practices of hatred, divisions and violence must be thrown away this year, 2020.”
This is a longing that surely reflects the hearts of millions of South Sudanese after the last six years of civil war. The fighting has killed 400,000 people and displaced a further 4 million – more than a third of the population – including many refugees in northern Uganda.
There has been an agonising peace process. A ceasefire in September 2018 has largely held, but the next major step of forming a government of national unity has been much more difficult. Two deadlines were missed in 2019. Now the scheduled date for forming the government is February 2020.
There have been positive peaceful moves in preparation for this next stage, including bringing warring troops together. Training of both government and rebel troops to form a united army is going forward in multiple training camps.
There have been other pieces of good news too.
President Salva Kiir has issued pardons to 30 “high profile” (ie, political) prisoners held in Juba. The best-known, Peter Biar, had been jailed for two years for giving interviews to the media during a stand-off between guards and inmates at the National Security HQ.
In Yei River State, 23 civilians who were allegedly abandoned by government forces and picked up by the National Salvation Front during clashes have been handed over to the International Red Cross to be reunited with their families.
Also in Yei River State, a four-year old boy, who had been kidnapped during fighting between armed groups in Morobo county last October, has been released and re-united with his father (his mother was killed in the fighting).
North of the border in Sudan, there is more good news. The new government in Sudan has said it is possible to reach a comprehensive peace agreement with all rebel groups, both in the Blue Mountains and South Kordofan, and in Darfur, by the end of February. There are still clashes in Darfur, but they are between local tribes, and UN agencies are working to help them.
We hope that these are signs of hope for the broader peace process in both countries and urge all CMS supporters to join their prayers with Archbishop Justin, who concludes his New Year message:
“Our prayer is for every South Sudanese to look at things in a new way with a renewed effort and hope for peace and stability in our nation of South Sudan.”
Thanks to the Rev Jane Shaw, CMS trustee, who maintains close links with the Church in South Sudan and provided much of the information above.