South Sudan (MNN) — Diplomats are meeting in Ethiopia this week to bring an end to three weeks of South Sudan violence. In mid-December, what began as an attempted coup soon spiraled into tribal clashes. At least 1,000 people have been killed, according to United Nations figures, and some 200,000 are now displaced.
Since conflict is cutting off oil lines, stakeholders are stepping in and demanding an end to the unrest. The Associated Press says China, the biggest investor in oil-rich South Sudan, is pushing for the restoration of law and order.
Sudan President Omar al-Bashir arrived yesterday in Ethiopia, where peace talks are being facilitated between the president of South Sudan: Salva Kiir, and his opponent: former vice president Riek Machar.
“We fought each other for 20 [years], and in the end we sat and talked peace,” Bashir told reporters after arriving in Ethiopia. “Any further fighting is just a perpetuation of suffering for innocent civilians, loss of lives, and more destruction.”
Voice of the Martyrs Canada spokesman Greg Musselman says ethnic conflict in South Sudan is a constant problem. But this latest outbreak of violence could launch a new civil war.
“It’s an absolute mess, and we have been working in South Sudan for a number of years,” he states.
Although “this isn’t a Christian persecution issue…, it affects the Church, and certainly we want to be there helping with reconciliation, especially amongst Christians that are on opposite sides of tribes.”
VOM Canada has been working alongside the Christian-majority South Sudan for years; ministry foundations were established even before the region seceded from the Muslim-dominated north.
They’ve been helping refugees and internally-displaced people (IDPs) rebuild and restore their livelihoods, but the new wave of violence is causing major set-backs. Musselman’s daughter was in South Sudan when fighting broke out a few weeks ago.
“She was heartbroken, because she [had gotten] to know some of the people, and [her] new friends were suffering as a result of this [violence],” shares Musselman.
Church leaders are trying to foster peace and reconciliation, the spokesman says. But, “if that doesn’t happen, this thing could become like another Rwanda.
“We pray that that would not happen.”
Will you join them? Pray that the Church will take a leadership role in reconciliation efforts.
“We need to pray for peace, reconciliation, and repentance for those that have, in some cases, done some pretty horrible things,” says Musselman. “The Gospel definitely is the message of hope; it’s a message of forgiveness.”
Pray also that “with the strong presence of Christianity in South Sudan, people will look to God and will look to Scripture [for] how to work their way out of this.”