SOUTH SUDAN – Bishops send a message of hope and courage to the suffering population
After their meeting in Juba from 21st to 23rd February 2017, along with the Apostolic Nuncio to South Sudan and Kenya, Archbishop Charles Daniel Balvo, the South Sudanese bishops respond to the disturbing reports from all seven of their dioceses spanning the whole country.
“People live in fear. The civil war continues” state the bishops in their pastoral message. They express their concern that much of the violence is being perpetrated by government and opposition forces against civilians. “Some towns have become ‘ghost towns’, empty except for security forces and perhaps members of one faction or tribe. Even when they have fled to our churches or to UN camps for protection, they are still harassed by security forces.”The bishops lament an increasing level of hatred and a general lack of respect for human life.
They denounce that the humanitarian crisis that grips South Sudan is mostly due to insecurity and poor economic management. “Millions of our people are affected, with large numbers displaced from their homes and many fleeing to neighbouring countries, where they are facing appalling hardships in refugee camps.” The bishops have instructed Caritas South Sudan and requested their Caritas International partners to act urgently to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in South Sudan, and they call on the rest of the international community to do the same.
The bishops also express their concern that “some elements within the government appear to be suspicious of the Church” and make it clear that the Church does not take sides in the conflict. “We are FOR all good things – peace, justice, love, forgiveness, reconciliation, dialogue, the rule of law, good governance – and we are AGAINST evil – violence, killing, rape, torture, looting, corruption, arbitrary detention, tribalism, discrimination, oppression”. They intend to be like the widow who kept coming to an indifferent judge, demanding justice (Luke 18:2-5), and meet with everyone “who we believe has the power to change our country for the better” until concrete action is taken to solve this situation.
The bishops ask the faithful in South Sudan to “work for justice and peace; reject violence and revenge.” With great joy they also ask for prayers for the Pope’s intention of visiting the country later this year. The Holy Father is deeply concerned about the sufferings of the people of South Sudan; his visit would be a symbol of his fatherly concern and it would draw the attention of the world to the situation in the country.
Since its independence, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has supported projects in South Sudan for more than 4 million Euros. The help went to pastoral aid, Mass stipends, the building of Church infrastructure, urgent help and subsistence aid. True to its charism, ACN will keep on helping the Church’s pastoral work in South Sudan in spite of all difficulties.