AFRICA/SOUTH SUDAN - Bishops: violence, murder, torture and rape of civilians are "war crimes"

Tuesday, 19 September 2017


Juba (Agenzia Fides) - "Our country is not at peace. People live in fear. The civil war, which we have frequently described as having no moral justification whatsoever, continues". The dilemma of this situation has pushed the Bishops of South Sudan to publish a Pastoral Letter sent to Fides, in which they complain of the attack on civilians by both the government and the opposition, and raise an alarm on the ethnic dimension that the conflict has assumed (see Fides 24/08/2017).
"Despite our calls to all parties, factions and individuals to stop the war, nevertheless killing, raping, looting, displacement, attacks on churches and destruction of property continue all over the country. In some towns there is calm, but the absence of gunfire does not mean peace has come. In other towns, civilians are effectively trapped inside the town due to insecurity on the surrounding roads", reads the document. People do not have a place where they can go to avoid the violence: "Even when they have fled to our churches or to UN camps for protection, they are still harassed by security forces. Many have been forced to flee to neighboring countries for protection", the Bishops said. Noting that the amount of hatred in the Country was rising, the Bishops said the killing, torture, and rape of civilians was a “war crime. "People have been herded into their houses which were then set on fire to burn the occupants. Bodies have been dumped in sewage-filled septic tanks. There is a general lack of respect for human life".
In addition, the Catholic Bishops said they were going to take a more "proactive approach" to move forward, and that they were going to liaise with other Christian churches in attempts to find lasting peace. "Through the Action Plan for Peace (APP) of our South Sudan Council of Churches (SSCC) - reads the statement sent to Fides - we intend to meet face to face not only with the President but with the vice presidents, ministers, members of parliament, opposition leaders and politicians, military officers from all sides, and anyone else who we believe has the power to change our Country for the better. We intend to meet with them not once, but again and again, for as long as is necessary, with the message that we need to see action, not just dialogue for the sake of dialogue". In June, the Holy See announced the initiative called "The Pope for South Sudan", which involves the deployment of considerable Vatican funds to the African country to be used in the fields of education, health care, and agriculture. (see Fides 30/6/2017 ). (AP) (Agenzia Fides, 19/9/2017)