WOMEN in South Sudan are crying "day and night, their children
are dying at their hands", while their leaders put their personal
interests first, a South Sudanese bishop said on Wednesday.
The Assistant Bishop of Juba, the Rt Revd Fraser Yugu, was one
of eight senior clerics from South Sudan in the UK this week, under
the aegis of the Barnabas Fund, to launch the United Christian
Emergency Committee for South Sudan (UCEC), a cross-denominational
group seeking to tackle the humanitarian and leadership crises.
An appeal from UCEC on Wednesday warned that: "Our future is
being undermined as our children are being devastated." Its
programme includes humanitarian relief, reconciliation, and the
establishment of a college to train "responsible leaders".
Bishop Yugu said: "People are dying only because of the
leadership. Everyone wants to become a leader." Talks in Addis
Ababa were deadlocked, he said, because of incompatible demands.
"The government has given a red line that they don't want to be
removed; meanwhile the rebel side want the government to step
down." Politicians were putting their personal interests first, he
said: "If the President resigns, they will lose their posts."
Bishop Yugu also expressed concern that foreign interests were
"fuelling the war", because of South Sudan's natural resources:
"People are exploiting us, and making us fight, and they are
waiting for us to finish and then they will come. . . They don't
want the government to be removed because it means whoever comes
will take them out of the oil fields."
Famine had hit in the past month, he said. The Church was
providing counselling to the traumatised: "Many have witnessed the
deaths of fathers and children. Some of them cannot talk; they are
just silent. We go to preach and encourage them because they are
losing their hope. We say: 'You are still alive and you are still
in your country.'"
The Church was also mobilising resources to help those in need,
including some who arrived naked. "We are taking things to people
so they have something to put on for modesty."
UCEC is asking churches to pray, and to lobby politicians to put
pressure on South Sudan's leaders, and to support the humanitarian
"Many people are innocent about our war," Bishop Yugu said. "The
focus is on Iraq, Syria. . . Ours is completely out [of the
"MY CHURCH was burned down. My flock is scattered." Thus
spoke the Bishop of Khartoum, the Rt Revd Ezekiel Kondo, at a
meeting of church leaders which I attended last month, writes
Christine Allen. He described himself as one of the "displaced
The Church - as a building and as a community of people
- has been torn apart. But it is not giving up. Some church leaders
left the country during the fighting, but many stayed, and most of
the others have returned.
Initially, the faith leaders present at the talks in
Addis Ababa were observers, but their involvement has expanded. Now
they are monitors, and do lobbying and mediation work. To those who
say this is too political, Bishop Isaiah Majok Dau of the Sudan
Pentecostal Church replied: "The most important ministry we can
carry out is this one." Churches are one of the
few institutions that are trusted in South Sudan. Their record of
standing with and supporting communities in the face of violence is
respected. They have suffered too, and share the trauma of the
people. Churches often cross ethnic lines, and have a vital part to
play in urging reconciliation, but they are aware of the way in
which their participation in processes might
be used politically.
While the main political antagonists in the conflict are
from two different tribes, everyone I spoke to was angry that this
was being portrayed as an ethnic conflict. This is why they see
their work for peace as so important.
In order to prevent the worst of the humanitarian
crisis, it is vital that South Sudan is pushed up the political and
media agenda. It is likely that an emergency appeal will be needed
later in the year.
Christine Allen is director of policy and public
affairs at Christian Aid.