‘Too much blood has been shed,’ say South Sudan’s religious superiors


Catholic News Service

NAIROBI, Kenya — South Sudan’s religious congregations urged the country’s political leaders to ensure that the peace agreement holds, and they condemned the atrocities and violence carried out by both government forces and rebel groups over the past five months.

Sister 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. The camp holds more than 20,000 Nuer who took refuge there 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)

“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 for all citizens of our young nation,” the Religious Superiors’ Association of South Sudan said in a statement after its mid-May meeting in the capital, Juba.

‘As your brothers and sisters, we are all mindful of each child, each woman, each man, each elderly person who has been affected by violence,” it said.

“The blood of thousands of innocent people cries for justice,” said the 75 representatives of 29 Catholic religious congregations.

They urged South Sudan President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar, Kiir’s former vice president, to work for peace and reconciliation through dialogue.

“Both government and rebel forces must be disciplined and kept under full control,” the association said, noting that the international convention on war and human rights “must be fully observed.”

Noting that the religious congregations continue their work in “church schools, dispensaries, hospitals and pastoral activities in dozens of parishes and missions” across the country’s seven dioceses, the association said it wished “to send a message of solidarity, peace and hope to the people of South Sudan in this time of crisis and violence.”

The association offered its prayers for victims of “this senseless violence” and said it stands “in solidarity with the hundreds of thousands” of people forced to flee their homes and “seek protection in the bushes, swamps, at U.N. bases and in the neighboring countries.” These people have lost most of their belongings, their livelihoods and opportunities and lack “what is basic for a decent life,” it said.

“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,” the association said. It noted that local clergy and others working for the church and religious organizations had been forced to leave their homes, parishes and communities in other parts of the country.

Noting that they “reject all violation of human rights, looting of private and public properties, and re-affirm the inviolable dignity of the human person,” the religious congregations said they “condemn all forms” of corruption, nepotism and greed.

“We cannot condone the supplying of weapons and ammunitions, the aim of which is only to destroy and kill,” they said.

Renewed clashes in the oil-producing Upper Nile state followed the May 10 signing of the peace agreement in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The agreement aimed to end five months of violence that has claimed thousands of lives and forced more than 1 million people to flee the conflict.

While the violence began as a rivalry between Kiir and Machar, ethnic loyalties soon took root, leading one U.N. official to say in a report earlier in May that “many of the precursors of genocide” were present.

— By Francis Njuguna