Violence in South Sudan: coordinating the global Anglican response

24 August 2016

SUDRA, the relief and development arm of the province of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan and Sudan (ECSSS), is responding to the needs of displaced people in Juba and other areas thanks to the support of Anglican agencies and partners.

The Anglican Alliance convened two conference calls on 14 July and 4 August, joined by partners from across the Anglican Communion. They heard directly from the ECSSS provincial team about the current situation, while SUDRA outlined its initial response and the plans for ongoing relief, there is a real need for advocacy by Anglicans for peace.

The call heard that nearly 42,000 were initially displaced in Juba, many turning to the churches for sanctuary. Many people were afraid to go back as they were uncertain if the ceasefire would actually hold. Some who want to return have seen their homes looted or destroyed and need further assistance. Markets have also been looted, so prices are high and there is concern that there may be imminent food shortages, particularly as the borders were closed, limiting imports of food supplies. There have been similar outbreaks of violence in Lainya, Yei, Kajo Keji, and Wau.

Right away, Nagulan Nesiah, Episcopal Relief & Development’s Senior Program Officer for disaster response and risk reduction, called to offer support. Nagulan has accompanied SUDRA through two phases of relief proposals and reporting since the civil war restarted in December 2013. This time SUDRA quickly put together an initial proposal to support 220 households seeking shelter in All Saints’ Cathedral Compound, Juba, which Episcopal Relief & Development (ERD) has funded.

A second proposal was issued after the call by SUDRA which looks to support those displaced in Juba and in other conflict-affected areas. The primary purpose of the project is to address the food needs of 14,400 IDPs – highly vulnerable children, women and elderly people in Juba, Kajo Keji, Yei, Lainya, Mundri and Wau. SUDRA aims to meet the immediate and pressing needs of 1,800 most vulnerable households in the initial weeks while it advocates with humanitarian agencies to meet other needs and explore long-term solutions until peace is implemented. The Anglican Alliance family is responding with pledges already coming in from Anglican Board of Mission (Australia), Anglican Overseas Aid (Australia), Mothers’ Union, Primates World Relief and Development Fund (Canada), the Church in Wales, the Diocese of Virginia as well as Christian Aid (UK).

Many of the international agencies initially evacuated their personnel due to the insecurity, so the Church stands in the breach, protecting the most vulnerable.

Revd Rachel Carnegie, Co-Director of the Anglican Alliance said: “It is inspirational to witness the courage and commitment of the bishops and provincial team responding so quickly and effectively to the crisis when many of them have themselves been driven from their homes by the violence. We urge prayer for peace and for protection of the church and communities. The Anglican Alliance also commends support to the Church’s humanitarian response.”

Nagulan Nesiah of Episcopal Relief & Development said: “We continue to pray for and be inspired by the work of the church.  Despite facing hardships, with many of the staff themselves displaced, they continue to be a witness to Christ’s Love in serving their neighbours. This most recent effort not only addresses the humanitarian needs in the areas generating media attentions, but also focuses on more isolated areas the church has identified through their grassroots network”

While ECSSS is responding to the practical needs by providing relief through SUDRA, this is just part of the activities of the ECSSS fact-finding committee set up by Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul. The committee has also been analysing the political and security situation. Working with other leaders from the South Sudan Council of Churches they are advocating to political leaders, commending the peace agreement as the way forward. They are raising up the voices of the people to those in power – the voices of people who are living in fear, many even leaving Juba for fear of what will happen. People want the Peace Agreement implemented, but fear that the political leaders may not have full control over military leaders in the bush.

The follow up conference call on 4 August allowed the provincial team to update the partners on the current situation, such as the leadership changes in the Transitional Government of National Unity, as well as for the SUDRA team to hear the pledges from the partners around the Communion.

This week Rev Joseph El Hag, director of the SUDRA, has been linking with ACT Alliance and Caritas who have formed an Emergency Task force in Juba, assessing needs and coordinating their responses. The Churches have been key responders since the recent violence that resulted in many expatriates leaving the country.

This latest crisis is in addition to the continuing food security crisis in the conflict-affected country, where drought has added to reduced planting due to displacement and fear of farming the fields when militia are roaming. SUDRA reports that now is the time for harvesting maize and groundnuts, but in many places people have been displaced or fear going back to their fields to harvest.

Mama Harriet Baka, Provincial Coordinator of the Mothers’ Union, has been in touch with coordinators in Yei, Lainya and Kajo Keji. She reported that people have run into the bush, without belongings and are living in the rain, without food and in a state of fear and confusion. She said that three women had died in labour, when they found health facilities in the regional towns deserted, like the rest of the towns. She also reported a rise in sexual violence.

Mama Harriet gave heartfelt cry to Anglican partners on the recent conference call “thank you … as a mother, as a women, for your efforts for food and other basic needs… still it is not enough. We need PEACE, then people will not be fleeing the country. Use your influence for peace”. This cry was echoed by Revd Joseph El Hag, director of SUDRA, who asked for Anglicans to reach out and advocate for peace, as church leaders are doing both within South Sudan through the South Sudan Council of Churches, as well as through the All Africa Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches.

The Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa at their recent meeting in Kigali expressed particular concern about the situation in South Sudan and expressed their solidarity with the Christian community in South Sudan and “other countries that are experiencing political strife” and called on the leaders of South Sudan to “bring the fighting to an end and firmly commit to a sustainable peace.”

Last week, an ecumenical prayer service was held at All Saints Cathedral in Juba, organised by the South Sudan Council of Churches. Bishop Enoch Tombe, Anglican Bishop of Rejaf, welcomed the congregation, and thanked a group who had travelled from Nairobi in Kenya to join in the service, led by former Archbishop Dr Eliud Wabukala.

Please pray for this young country, for the people who have known so little peace. Pray for the leaders that they may listen to the people and their desire for peace and stability in the country.

Below you can find links to stories and appeals by Anglican partners,

Ecumenical partners are also responding in partnership with SUDRA:

Photo credit: SUDRA