God of freedom and God of justice, we pray with our sisters and brothers in South Sudan as they mark four years of independence. We rejoiced together when South Sudan became the world’s newest nation. We have shared joy and deep sorrow in the four years since. Now, with our brothers and sisters, our hearts are heavy as the South Sudan nation faces a deep conflict that could destroy all for which they have strived. We mourn with people who have lost loved ones in this current unrest; we ache for the children and adults who have become traumatized again and again; we ask for healing for people who are injured, strength for people who are imprisoned and hiding, courage for the people who pursue peace; and we ask for grace for all the people of South Sudan that they might turn from violence and build community with one another. Keep our church partners and mission personnel safe and be their rock as they look to you for strength and guidance. Be with our partners: the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan, the South Sudan Evangelical Presbyterian Church, RECONCILE (Resource Centre for Civil Leadership), the South Sudan Council of Churches, and Across. Strengthen them with the power of your Holy Spirit as they witness to the strong love of Christ, advocating for peace and justice in a situation that is only hopeful because we follow a resurrected Christ, in whose name we pray, Amen.
July 9 marks the fourth anniversary of the independence of South Sudan. We recall the sense of unity and optimism that attended the new nation’s birth. Weary of warfare and brutality, South Sudan’s people longed for peace, prosperity, and a better future, and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) shared their hopes and their joy.
Four years later, those aspirations have become a dream deferred. At the end of 2013, conflict between South Sudan’s political leaders fueled ethnic tensions and sparked renewed fighting. Since then, more than 1.5 million people have been displaced, including more than 800,000 children. The United Nations and international organizations have documented widespread human rights abuses, including gang-rape and torture.
Escalating violence has forced many aid agencies to relocate staff and suspend programs in some parts of South Sudan. Aid agencies have been forced to suspend life-saving interventions, including nutrition programs for children and distribution of blankets, sleeping mats, hygiene products, shelter materials, and mosquito nets. As a result, more than 10,000 children under five face malnutrition and nearly 300,000 are left in need of aid.
Once we celebrated with the people of South Sudan. Now we share their tears. I encourage all members of the PC(USA)—indeed, all members of the community of faith around the world—to remember South Sudan’s people in prayer. Please pray for:
- A renewed zeal for peace, forgiveness, reconciliation, and unity in South Sudan;
- Strength, comfort, and hope for survivors of violence and for those who have lost loved ones;
- Courage, persistence, and gifts of discernment for the leadership of PC(USA) partners (the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan, the South Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church, the South Sudan Council of Churches, and RECONCILE) that they may minister with joy, creativity, and effectiveness in the midst of strife;
- Wisdom, humility, and a spirit of servant-leadership among South Sudan’s political leaders;
- Impartiality, inspiration, and integrity for representatives of regional governments and international organizations as they seek to mediate disputes and accompany South Sudan to stability, wholeness, and peace.
Please also consider taking action to encourage U.S. officials to redouble their efforts to build peace and justice in South Sudan. The United States has consistently demonstrated its support for South Sudan, even before it gained independence, and it remains the largest contributor of humanitarian aid to assist families affected by the conflict. Yet, without further action and resources, there will be increased violence and a deepening humanitarian crisis.
Public pressure is needed to:
- Uphold humanitarian funding commitments and ensure humanitarian agencies can access remote and vulnerable communities;
- Provide basic protections to civilians, particularly women and girls;
- Enforce an immediate ceasefire and halt the flow of weapons to South Sudan to limit the potential for political leaders to seek power through violence;
- Revive the peace process and ensure the inclusion of a broad cross-section of civil society voices.
For more information on what you and your congregation can do, please see the Office of Public Witness Action Alert at: http://capwiz.com/pcusa/issues/alert/?alertid=66908626.
Please pray and act so that the people of South Sudan may know genuine independence, self-determination, and the fullness of life promised in Jesus Christ.
The Reverend Gradye Parsons
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)