South Sudan - ten years on
On 9th July 2011, then President, Barack Obama congratulated the new nation of South Sudan saying ‘Today is a reminder that after the darkness of war, the light of a new dawn is possible’.
Today as South Sudan marks it's ten year anniversary Archbishop Justin addressed the church and the nation:
"We acknowledge with thanks to God the sacrificial efforts done by our liberators and all those who supported us in our struggle for freedom. We all hoped for a peaceful and joyful life in our new nation, but our hearts have continued with pain, anguish and misery brought by our own evil actions."
UNICEF reports that 10 years after South Sudan’s independence, more children are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance than ever before, an estimated 2 out of every 3 children nationwide. Approximately 60% of the population is in need of assistance and outside agents have provided almost all the social support services that people have relied upon, over the last 10 years.
UNIMISS notes that ‘sexual violence is being used as a tactic to displace and terrorize rival communities’ and the report lists many forms that this takes. Women and girls bear the brunt of this violation. Families are torn apart, homes destroyed, people displaced and South Sudan’s major export is its people – fleeing to refugee camps across the borders.
Jenny Smyth reflects:
"As mission partners living in South Sudan before the signing of the historic Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005, our family witnessed the jubilation this inspired, the potential for a new start, the green shoots of recovery. Invited to support the vision of the local church, we were deeply involved in the lives of people returning home from refugee camps to resettle, rebuild and re-imagine life. After a stuttering start hopes were again high in 2011 with the official birth of South Sudan. Only 3 years later grumbling tensions broke out and things spiraled downwards into civil war. It breaks my heart to see the current situation. Only 10 years old and hopes and aspirations lie in tatters."
Today we acknowledge that the new dawn is not as anyone hoped. However we continue to hold hope for South Sudan and we believe that hope is being kept alive and shared by the church. In recognition of this Archbishop Justin appealed to all citizens today, to live out their Christian calling:
"Now, with freedom in our minds, and Christian faith in our hearts, I appeal to all our citizens to cease from violence and embrace brotherhood love, peace, unity, forgiveness and reconciliation.... We continuously commit ourselves in prayers for God’s will to be done in South Sudan as it is in heaven."
Jenny shares her experiences which demonstrate that the church does indeed continue to be the place of hope even on this bittersweet anniversary:
"Local churches have been like small candles glimmering in the darkness, attracting people in need, those seeking refuge and sustenance. God’s people have provided shelter, shared their clothes and food, inspired hope and faith. When their communities have been over run by violence they have fled with their neighbours to refugee camps, where undaunted, they have been the first to settle and rebuild places of worship, drawing community together again. Visiting displaced people in 2014 I spoke to Rebecca, sheltering in the local church, many foot weary miles from her burnt out home, she told me that as she ran from conflict her husband shouted after her ‘Run to the church in Maridi, there you will find the love of Christ’"
The South Sudan Council for churches today offered a ‘Message of hope declaring the second decade of South Sudan’s independence as a period of a new beginning of Peace, Justice, Freedom and Prosperity for all our people' beginning with Psalm 30:5:
‘For His anger lasts only for a moment, but His favour lasts a lifetime! Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes in the morning’
The message that the church still holds is one of hope that things can change, that in the way of Christ, forgiveness, reconciliation and transformation can begin. Church leaders are determined to stand for truth, justice, healing, forgiveness and reconciliation. The South Sudan Council for churches calls to the global church ‘not to abandon us in our journey’ but to continue to work together …to set our country on a new course – a course that leaves no one behind…Faith hope and love will drive us forward and sustain us in this noble task’
In this broken world God calls His people to be torch bearers. God commissions His church to bear His image in the world, to begin His great work of restoration of all things. Through our long and strong partnership links CMS Ireland commits to continue to stand by local churches in South Sudan in friendship and prayer, listening to their priorities and petitions, learning how we can best support and strengthen their work as they bring the healing light of Christ to their communities. This is where transformation begins. This is our call to mission.