By Jesse Masai
Two presidents have backed a call by Archbishop Justin Badi’s call for peace in South Sudan.
Civil strife and a steady flow of refugees have plagued the nation, Africa’s youngest, despite a comprehensive peace agreement in 2005 with its predominantly Muslim northern neighbor, Sudan.
Hostilities have particularly intensified in Upper Nile and Jonglei states — encompassing two of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan’s eight internal provinces — sparking calls for humanitarian intervention.
“Initial fighting began in Panyikang and Fangak counties in Upper Nile State in July 2022 before escalating into heavy conflict by mid-August. It has since spread to parts of Jonglei and Unity states,” The East African reported.
The government, it also reported, had in December been forced to airlift the king of the Chollo Kingdom, Reth Kwongo Dak Padiet, to Juba after fighting spread to his residence in Fashoda County, amid mounting calls for de-escalation.
“Our focus should be on the importance and power of good and godly families,” Archbishop Badi said on Christmas Eve. “Both the church and the government rely on good families in what they do. When Caesar Augustus wanted to know the population and strength of his empire, he had to reunite families in their home territory.”
The primate added: “When God wanted to send his Son as Savior of the world, he had to choose a well-disciplined family of Joseph and the Virgin Mary. It is my prayer that during this Christmas season we all present ourselves in ways that please God so that the presence of the newborn Savior may be in our families and our lives to bring love, harmony, respect, unity, and joy that will enable us to join the angels in singing for peace in the world and South Sudan.”
President William Ruto of Kenya revealed on January 2 that he had received a call from his Sudanese counterpart, President Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and they “deliberated about the security situation in the Eastern Africa region, and specifically in South Sudan.”
“We committed to hold a special Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD) Summit focusing on South Sudan before the end of this month to assess the status of implementation of the ‘Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan’ and address any emerging issues,” he added.
Founded in 1986, IGAD brings together the Horn of Africa countries of Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, and Uganda for development and drought control in the region.
Ruto further noted: “We also appreciate [South Sudan] President Salva Kiir’s special message recognizing Kenya’s support in seeking solutions to emerging challenges in South Sudan, [searching] for durable peace, and in delivering humanitarian assistance to the affected communities.”
The gospel has spread fast in South Sudan, which is partially animist.
Pioneered as the Diocese of Sudan in 1899 by the Church Missionary Society in Omdurman, Sudan, the See was under the Jerusalem archbishopric until 1974, before reverting to the jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
A new province, consisting of four new dioceses, was established in 1976, before a final split on June 30, 2017, into the provinces of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan and Episcopal Church of Sudan.