South Sudanese Religious Leaders Calling for Ceasefire

Refugees fleeing the crisis in South Sudan arrive at Kakuma camp in Kenya. Photo: LWF/J. Macharia
Refugees fleeing the crisis in South Sudan arrive at Kakuma camp in Kenya. Photo: LWF/J. Macharia

LWF on the Ground to Assist Refugees from the Conflict

(LWI) – Some 200,000 people are reported to be internally displaced and 1,000 have been killed since fighting broke out in the South Sudanese capital of Juba on 15 December and later spread to the eastern part of the country. Reportedly, more than 23,500 people have sought refuge in neighboring countries.  

South Sudan is the world’s newest state. It was formed in 2011 after gaining independence from Sudan following decades of conflict.

The Lutheran World Federation’s (LWF) Department for World Service (DWS) has been able to uphold essential services in LWF-run programs through national and local staff, despite having to evacuate international staff due to the security situation in December.

Currently, the LWF is preparing a response to the crisis together with ACT members and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).Two international staff members are now back in Juba and are coordinating the LWF’s involvement.

People fleeing the conflict have camped under trees with little to support themselves.

Arie den Toom, DWS Country Representative in South Sudan, reports that LWF staff is helping distribute non-food items provided by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to about 600 families in Jonglei in the eastern part of South Sudan, who have fled the heavy fighting in Bor.

“We are also currently exploring with UNHCR how we can resume our work in child protection and education for refugees from Southern Khordofan and Blue Nile States,” adds den Toom.

Scaling Up Assistance in Neighboring Countries

The LWF also is preparing for an influx of refugees to camps in Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda by bringing in additional emergency staff and assessing how to provide meals and other essential support for the many new arrivals.

“The number of new arrivals per day has quickly increased from being in the tens, to now being 300 nearing 400 per day,” said Lennart Hernander, DWS country representative in Kenya. A majority of the 388 people arriving on 5 January alone were children.

“There is a need to quickly scale up the response in child protection, emergency education, water and peace and security,” added Hernander.

An ACT appeal has been launched to support the activities in countries neighboring South Sudan to assist those forced to leave their homes.

Call for an Immediate Ceasefire

The LWF has been involved in South Sudan for more than two decades and is providing humanitarian assistance in the capital of Juba and in Jonglei, Unity, and Upper Nile states.  

The LWF is deeply saddened by the developments and the impact on the thousands of people concerned, and urges an end to the violence and more talks, says DWS Director Rev. Eberhard Hitzler.

 “We have a deep concern for people who are tired after years of civil war and now again have to face a situation of conflict and violence,” Hitzler said.

“We have learned through history that there is no military solution that can offer peace in South Sudan. We need an immediate ceasefire and a political solution for the sake of the thousands of people suffering severely under the armed conflict.” 

There have also been credible reports of mass killings and other human right violations by state and non-state armed actors alike, the DWS director added. He called for urgent, decisive and effective enhancement of the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan’s (UNMISS) protection of civilians.

On 5 January, religious leaders in South Sudan issued a joint statement calling for an immediate ceasefire, titled “God Save Our Nation of South Sudan.”

It stated: “We are seeking peace and ceasefire urgently and welcome the world to intervene and put an end to the rampant killing of innocent women, children, disabled and the elderly people that are dying without cause and the abuse that is now going on across the Country.” 

At the same time religious leaders urged neighboring countries and the international community to approach South Sudanese political leaders to bring an end to the conflict.  “We are tired of war, we need peace and South Sudanese peace is African Peace,” the statement said.