South Sudan: Interreligious efforts directed toward promoting peace
Amid growing calls for a stop to instances of intercommunal violence in South Sudan’s Tambura region, Bishop Edward Hiiboro Kussala of Tombura-Yambio diocese reflects on an initiative of the country's religious leaders in the service of peace.
The greater Tambura region in Western Equatoria, South Sudan, has been beleaguered in recent times by intercommunal conflict, displacement, and reports of human rights violations, prompting calls for an end to the violence from several quarters, including the church.
The UN reports that numerous people have been killed or have disappeared in the conflict, amid an immense loss of capital, destroyed crops, and a situation that can lead to a food crisis. More than 30,000 people in and around the area have been displaced, and hundreds of households have been forced to camp in a church compound.
As part of efforts to broker peace in the country that is still trying to implement a peace agreement signed in September 2018, religious leaders, under the aegis of the Interfaith Council of Peace and the Interreligious Council, set out to meet with the population and political leaders in Tambura to try to bring an end to the violence.
Bishop Edward Hiiboro Kussala of Tombura-Yambio, who is a member of the peace delegation of religious leaders to Tambura spoke with Federico Piana from Vatican News. Bishop Kussala explained that the initiative “brought a message of love and reconciliation that touched the hearts” of the people.
A mission of God
Bishop Kussala noted that the initiative, which came to an end on Tuesday, was a success, as it was an opportunity to express closeness and compassion to the people who have suffered as a result of the violence.
“It was a mission of God,” he said, adding that the message of love and reconciliation has done a lot of good to those who listened to it.
South Sudan’s challenges
In the face of the challenges faced by the country, the bishop highlights the need for leadership – a strong and organized government – without which, conditions for confusion are created.
He went on to point out some of the difficulties in the Northeast African nation, including the high rate of poverty, and a lack of access to food, healthcare, and basic necessities. In addition, political groups in the country often find it hard to agree among themselves for the common good of the country, and the law enforcement and justice system leave a lot to be desired.
In this context, Bishop Kussala notes the difficulties the Church faces in trying to respond to people's needs. He highlights, in particular, the lack of resources to help the people affected in situations of conflict. In this regard, his attempts to ask for support from international organizations have not been very successful, as many are directing resources toward fighting the Covid-19 pandemic.
However, as regards the initiative, he said that the message of peace was well received by the people. However, as often happens, not everyone has the will to receive it, as there are some who do not want peace because they gain from conflict situations.
In the meantime, a team of United Nations peacekeepers has stepped up patrols in the area, protecting and assessing the human rights situation and advocating for the protection of people and their properties.
The UN is also supporting government efforts, as it takes up the task of stabilizing the situation and engaging the conflicting parties in dialogue to bring an end to the violence in Tambura.
Vatican News staff writer