STATEMENT ADDRESSED TO THE PEOPLE OF SOUTH SUDAN
Take every care to preserve the unity of the Spirit by the peace that binds you together
We, the Catholic bishops of the Republic of South Sudan, meeting in Plenary Session in Juba from 6th – 8th September 2011, wish to express our joy and thanksgiving to God for the peaceful birth of our new nation on 9th July 2011.
The challenge for all of us now is nation-building, emphasising unity
As we said in our season of prayer for independence, South Sudan must be “one nation from every tribe, tongue and people”.
This is a shared responsibility, not just for the government. We encourage all citizens of South Sudan, with their faith communities, civil society and political parties, to participate in building a new, prosperous and peaceful nation. We encourage a culture of hard work rather than entitlement or dependency. We commit ourselves and our Church to continue to play a proactive and prophetic role in public life, insisting on human rights and responsibilities, and the dignity of the individual, as expressed in the gospel values of Catholic Social Teaching.
A crucial part of nation-building is national reconciliation. Five decades of war has left the scars of trauma on our people, and new internal conflicts are taking place even as we meet. We are particularly concerned about the recent great loss of life in Jonglei State, as well as the ongoing conflicts elsewhere, including the Lord’s Resistance Army in Western Equatoria and Western Bahr el Ghazal. We urge all those with grievances to settle them by peaceful means, not by taking up arms again. Violence is not the answer. We call upon all stakeholders in South Sudan to work for peace and reconciliation. We re-commit ourselves and our Church to the continual process of national reconciliation, at every level.
By its very nature, the Church contributes to the integral well-being of the people. Our Sudan Catholic Radio Network (with radio stations reaching the whole nation) and our Catholic universities play a very visible role in nation-building and reconciliation. However this work is ongoing at every level of our Church life through diocesan institutions such as schools, clinics, justice and peace commissions, aid and development activities, and our spiritual and pastoral ministry, which seeks to form people as good citizens and good Christians. In addition, in October 2011 we will hold a national symposium on the role of the Church in building a new nation, followed by cultural events nation-wide.
We welcome the formation of a new government in South Sudan. We are encouraged by attempts to broaden geographical and gender representation within the cabinet. We have great expectations of this new government, and commit ourselves to engaging constructively with them. We call upon government and citizens to ensure that corruption disappears at all levels of national life. At the same time, we recognise that “Rome was not built in a day” and that the development of a new nation is a process which will take time. While constantly holding the government to account and always expecting progress, we nevertheless caution citizens to manage their expectations, to be patient in their demands, to be fair to the government and to allow them time to move forward carefully and in good order.
We note with concern the slow delivery of basic services and infrastructure, increasing crime and insecurity, and the rising price of essential commodities which are causing difficulties in South Sudan. We call for a nation-wide effort to address these issues.
Our joy is tempered by the tragic events taking place in Darfur, Abyei, South Kordofan / Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile. Injustice and insecurity in the border areas impinges negatively on peace in our country and our region. Our hearts are also troubled by concerns about the treatment of South Sudanese and other minorities in the Republic of Sudan. Their pain is our pain. We offer them our prayers and solidarity. We support all those in the two Sudans and the international community who are seeking a just and peaceful solution.
Through the intercession of Saints Josephine Bakhita and Daniel Comboni, may God bless you all. God bless our new Republic of South Sudan, and our neighbour, the Republic of Sudan.
Given in Juba, Republic of South Sudan
8th September 2011
Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary