The following statement — a “message of encouragement and hope” — was released by the Catholic bishops of South Sudan on June 16, 2016. It can also be found on the Solidarity with South Sudan website.
“Be strong and of good courage, and act. Do not be afraid or dismayed; for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you, until all the work for the service of the house of the Lord is finished.” (1 Chronicles 28:20)
We the Catholic bishops of South Sudan, meeting in Juba from 14th-16th June 2016, have prayed and reflected about the situation in our country in the light of the Gospel, and we issue this Message of Encouragement and Hope to the people of South Sudan and our regional and international friends and partners.
In the life of the Catholic Church, there have been many blessings during this year. The Holy Father Pope Francis declared it a Year of Mercy with the words: “This Jubilee Year of Mercy excludes no one.” We are called upon to show mercy and forgiveness, even in the face of great evil and suffering, but we are also called upon to repent and do penance.
The Synods on the Family in 2014 and 2015 led to the publication in April 2016 of the Post Synodal Pastoral Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, The Joy of Love. It affirms the centrality of the family – indeed “The Church is a family of families”, God’s family – and dwells on pastoral care for the family. The family does not exist in a vacuum. Real problems which face families in South Sudan are recognised in the Exhortation; “the family has the right to decent housing… Families, in particular, suffer from problems related to work, where young people have few possibilities… Societies experiencing violence due to war, terrorism or the presence of organized crime are witnessing the deterioration of the family… the so-called phenomenon of ‘street-children’ is on the rise… forced migration of families, resulting from situations of war, persecution, poverty and injustice, and marked by the vicissitudes of a journey that often puts lives at risk, traumatizes people and destabilizes families…” But the document also speaks highly of African families: “In some countries, especially in various parts of Africa, secularism has not weakened certain traditional values, and marriages forge a strong bond between two wider families, with clearly defined structures for dealing with problems and conflicts.” May the strength of our South Sudanese families be a resource for peace and reconciliation in our nation.
From 11th-13th April 2016, an important conference entitled “Nonviolence and Just Peace: Contributing to the Catholic Understanding of and Commitment to Nonviolence” was held in Rome under the auspices of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and Pax Christi International. The South Sudanese church participated. The Conference declared: “We believe that there is no ‘just war’… Pope Saint John XXIII wrote that war is not a suitable way to restore rights; Pope Paul VI linked peace and development, and told the UN ‘no more war’; Pope Saint John Paul II said that ‘war belongs to the tragic past, to history’; Pope Benedict XVI said that ‘loving the enemy is the nucleus of the Christian revolution’; and Pope Francis said ‘the true strength of the Christian is the power of truth and love, which leads to the renunciation of all violence. Faith and violence are incompatible’. He has also urged the ‘abolition of war’…” and called for “A Just Peace approach… to build peace as well as to prevent, defuse, and to heal the damage of violent conflict. This ethic includes a commitment to human dignity and thriving relationships… We recognize that peace requires justice and justice requires peacemaking.” Echoes of our own frequent statements that the civil war in South Sudan has no moral justification can be heard in this. Continue reading A message from the bishops of South Sudan: Do not be afraid; rise above adversity