South Sudan on brink of major humanitarian crisis

South Sudan is in crisis again. People are suffering. There is no food. The situation is very urgent, according to the latest news from church leaders in South Sudan. The ceasefire called by the president and the first vice president this Summer is holding. The majority of the people remain indoors, fearing to venture outside even though guns have gone silent. Church compounds are sheltering thousands of civilians who fled from their homes. In the Catholic churches there were an estimated 16,000 people and more than 6,000 at the Protestant churches in Juba. No shops or banks are open.

With increasing violence and growing crowds of people seeking protection, urgent action and support from the ecumenical community is needed as the country teeters on the brink of a humanitarian crisis.

Church leaders reported that humanitarian support should be considered a top priority. About 40,000 people have been displaced during this crisis and at least 22,000 of them took refuge in different churches or parishes, reported Dr Nigussu Legesse, programme executive with the World Council of Churches (WCC). "In trying to return to their homes, most of them found out that their houses have already been looted and they have nothing to fall back on or sustain them. They need humanitarian support."

The country is on the brink of economic collapse, and prices of food items, particularly maize flour — a staple food in South Sudan — has soared.

A peace advisory group of the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC) met in June in Nairobi, and released an appeal for all partners and friends of South Sudan to contribute any amount at their disposal for immediate support of extremely vulnerable women and children affected by the crisis.

"With churches becoming sheltering places, there is a need for any humanitarian assistance that can be mobilized," said the appeal. "It is the expectation of the church leaders in South Sudan that the AACC will take the lead in the provision and coordination of any humanitarian assistance from the ecumenical family in this regard."

The AACC also called for churches in the region and internationally to speak in one voice for peace. "The South Sudanese Church leaders feel very strongly that such a united voice could have some impact," said the appeal.

Dr Agnes Abuom, moderator of the WCC Central Committee, meeting with the AACC to discern key actions churches can take to help forge a path to justice and peace in such a difficult time.

WCC member churches and friends were responding quickly to the appeal, offering support and prayers for peace from across the world.

World Council of Churches website

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