“We’re actively purchasing supplies for distribution to refugees” in South Sudan, reports Jay Wittmeyer, executive director of Global Mission and Service for the Church of the Brethren. One of three Brethren mission workers remains in South Sudan, while two have left the country, after violence broke out shortly before Christmas. The violence is linked to a coup attempt by a recently deposed vice president, and fears of the exacerbation of ethnic tensions in the nation.
Also, a number of South Sudanese church leaders have written public letters about the situation in South Sudan (see below).
Brethren purchase and distribute aid
Brethren mission worker Athanasus Ungang remains in Torit, a city that so far has not seen violence but has seen an influx of refugees from areas affected by violence. Ungang has been working in Torit to develop a peace center for the Church of the Brethren, and has been doing school construction and pastoring an English service with the Africa Inland Church.
Refugees are pouring into the Torit area from the city of Bor, where there is ongoing fighting, says Wittmeyer. The Global Mission and Service office has allocated $5,000 for immediate relief for 300 refugee families who have taken up shelter in an area near the Brethren peace center compound. The funds will help supply the refugees with basic relief goods including water, cooking supplies, and mosquito nets. Ungang is working with partner organization the Africa Inland Church to purchase and distribute relief goods.
Two other Brethren program staff who have been in South Sudan through Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) are Jillian Foerster and Jocelyn Snyder. Foerster completed her assignment and returned home before Christmas. Snyder has left South Sudan to take a few week’s holiday leave in Zambia. She plans to return to her work in the Torit area, Wittmeyer reports.
He adds that currently communications with South Sudan are difficult, but he hopes to be able to provide updates from Ungang’s work with refugees in Torit. For more about the Brethren mission in South Sudan see www.brethren.org/partners/sudan .
Letters from South Sudanese church leaders
South Sudanese church leaders have written public letters condemning the violence. Global Mission and Service staff received a letter dated Dec. 23, from South Sudanese bishops and church leaders writing from Nairobi, Kenya. The letter calls for an end to the killing of civilians and for peace between the warring political leaders. “We are condemning senseless killing of civilians and call upon the President of South Sudan H.E General Salva Kiir Mayardit and the former Vice President Dr. Riek Machar to stop fighting and come for dialogue and peaceful negotiation than the use of gun,” the letter says, in part. “We urge you to put the lives of the people first and political differences should be addressed later in love and harmony.” The letter asks the international Christian community to pray for political stability in the nation.
A letter dated Dec. 18, signed by prominent church leaders including Mark Akech Cien, acting general secretary of the South Sudan Council of Churches, and Daniel Deng Bul, archbishop of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan and Sudan, was shared by the World Council of Churches. The letter condemns the violence and asks for correction of media statements that refer to the violence as conflict between the Dinka and Nuer tribes. “These are political differences among the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement Party and political leaders of the Republic of South Sudan,” the letter says, in part. “Therefore, we appeal to the two communities of Dinka and Nuer not to accept that the conflict is between the two tribes…. We appeal to our political leaders to refrain from hate speeches that may incite and escalate the violence. We urge to initiate dialogues and resolve issues amicably.” Read more at www.oikoumene.org/en/resources/documents/general-secretary/letters-received/south-sudan-church-leaders-letter .