The Presbyterian Church in Ireland has marked the United Nation’s International Day of Peace 2020, by adding its name to a statement that draws attention to the urgent need for peace in South Sudan.
The statement, which has been produced by a range of churches and agencies affiliated to the Ecumenical Network on South Sudan (ENSS), also draws attention for the inclusion of local peacebuilders so that all the voices of ordinary South Sudanese people, including those of young people and women, may feel engaged in the process.
The statement also calls upon PCI and other church partners to stand with the world’s newest nation and points out that the conflict has led to a ‘dire humanitarian situation’ with 7.5 million people requiring humanitarian assistance and more that 2.26 million having been forced to flee the country. South Sudan is also ranked third in terms of countries most vulnerable to the impact of COVID-19.
Highlighting the reasons for PCI’s support, Rev Dr Liz Hughes, convener of denomination’s Council for Global Mission explained that peace and reconciliation is one of the Council’s priority areas, which it is committed to through working with its global mission partners, like the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan (PCOSS).
Dr Hughes said, “Our hearts are heavy for the people of South Sudan and for those who are endeavouring to build peace at every level of society. This includes the leaders and members of our partner Presbyterian church. On this International day of Peace, we once again reiterate our commitment to join with them in prayerful solidarity.
“For many years we have prayed for and provided practical support for the work of our partner church in South Sudan in relation to the humanitarian situation there, and in East Africa in general. For example, in 2014 our Council’s Secretary saw first-hand efforts on the ground when he visited the country.
“That same year our Moderator’s Special Appeal raised £340,000 for South Sudan and in 2017 a further £693,000 was raised for East Africa to support the humanitarian crisis there. Since that time we have also encouraged ongoing support through grants to our partner church and through our development partners Tearfund and Christian Aid Ireland,” Dr Hughes continued.
In 2013, PCI endorsed an appeal to leaders in South Sudan to lay down their weapons and cooperate in seeking peace and in 2018, members of PCI’s General Assembly had the opportunity to hear directly about the situation, when the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan and Sudan addressed them for the second time in four years.
Rt Rev Peter Gai Lual Marrow told the 2018 Assembly, “The situation is horrible. The people have suffered greatly because of the war. Many are starving, many have tried to leave the country, but due to closed borders in neighbouring countries, now find themselves internally displaced….”
Last week the Standing Committee of the Council for Global mission received its latest update from the Church, which said that the government was ‘trying its level best’ to complete the formation of the Revitalize Peace Agreement Government.
In a communique from PCOSS General Treasurer, Rev Peter Shabak Gatluak, reported, “South Sudan is in the midst of starvation driven by over four years of brutal civil war. Half of the population are facing extreme hunger and need urgent aid. The country continues to see a rise in the number of confirmed cases of Covid 19.” He also said that the situation had been worsened by the onset of the rainy season, which has led to the displacement of many people.
“While we have added our name to this particular statement on this year’s International Day of Peace,” Dr Hughes said, “let us not forget the many peoples and many nations around the world who are crying out for peace. As we pray for them, in the name of the Prince of Peace, we also remember our brother and sisters in Christ around the world who crave that same peace for themselves and their lands.”
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