Juba (Agenzia Fides) - In South Sudan one kills according to ethnicity. This was denounced by the South Sudanese Bishops in a statement sent to Agenzia Fides, which announces that Pope Francis hopes to visit South Sudan later this year. "Despite appeals to all parties to stop the war, killings, rapes, forced displacement, attacks on churches and destruction of property continue throughout the Country", states the document. Discrimination takes place on the basis of ethnicity, and those who are perceived to be "enemies" are "killed, raped, tortured, burned, beaten, robbed, harassed, imprisoned, forced to abandon their homes and prevented from harvesting their crop".
The government called on the refugees to go back to the villages, but many of these, denounce the Bishops, "have become scorched earth", while several cities have become "ghost towns, emptied of their inhabitants with the exception of the security forces and, perhaps, of members of a faction or tribe". Even those who are refugees in UN camps or churches are threatened and harassed by security forces. "These are forms of collective punishment prohibited by the laws of war provided for by the Geneva Convention" underline the Bishops.
The level of violence has become pathological. Not only civilians are killed but "their bodies are burned and mutilated" while in several cases, whole family groups were burned alive inside their homes.
The Bishops finally say they are worried by the fact that "elements of the government appear to be suspicious of the Church" and in some areas the Church has been able to mediate local peace deals, but these can easily be undermined if government officials are removed and replaced with hardliners who do not welcome Church efforts for peace. They finally denounce persecution against priests, religious men and women and lay people.
The message concludes by reiterating the Church's commitment to work with all to restore peace in the country. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 24/02/2017)