On South Sudan's first anniversary, bishops find progress and suffering

By Makena Clawson

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In preparation for the first anniversary of South Sudan’s independence, the country’s Catholic and Episcopal bishops have issued a message to the citizens recognizing the progress as well as obvious sufferings in the new nation.
 
Catholic Archbishop Paulino Lukudu Loro of Juba and Episcopal Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul of Sudan, began their joint pastoral letter by celebrating the accomplishments of the young nation.
 
In the past year the country has built roads, established embassies, and even produced a transitional Constitution. The bishops also recognized the end of internal tensions in the Jonglei State, saying that the nation “can be proud of all of this.”
 
Despite the nation’s accomplishments, however, the bishops said it is impossible to ignore the corruption among officials, ethnic discontent, and most notably, the hostility between South Sudan and Sudan.
 
“Relations between the governments of Sudan and South Sudan have deteriorated to unacceptable levels,” the bishops stated. They implored the governments to “implement a meaningful cease-fire and withdrawal of forces form the border region,” and to reject war as an option.
 
They proposed that the two nations should end their dispute over oil rights and borders by following the “international norms for the transshipment of oil” and an agreement upon the original border boundary of 1956.
 
The bishops stressed the need for compromise because of inherent human dignity. The dignity of the South Sudanese is under attack, due to civilians being expelled from Sudan and abducted by armed groups. But the bishops warned the South Sudanese not to fight back.
 
“We urge our brothers and sisters not to take up arms against fellow citizens but to join the democratization of their countries.” The bishops stand with the Church and commit to the “time tested belief in non-violence as a means to resolve conflicts.”
 
The bishops remain hopeful for their dream “of two nations which are democratic and free, where people of all religions all ethnic groups, all cultures and all languages enjoy equal human rights based on citizenship,” despite the current conflicts.
 
They finished their letter by calling for increased prayers for peace and by quoting Micah 6:8, telling the people to “act justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”

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