By Gradye Parsons, stated clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA).
God of freedom and God of justice, we pray with our sisters and brothers in South Sudan as they mark four years of independence. We rejoiced together when South Sudan became the world’s newest nation. We have shared joy and deep sorrow in the four years since. Now, with our brothers and sisters, our hearts are heavy as the South Sudan nation faces a deep conflict that could destroy all for which they have strived. We mourn with people who have lost loved ones in this current unrest; we ache for the children and adults who have become traumatized again and again; we ask for healing for people who are injured, strength for people who are imprisoned and hiding, courage for the people who pursue peace; and we ask for grace for all the people of South Sudan that they might turn from violence and build community with one another. Keep our church partners and mission personnel safe and be their rock as they look to you for strength and guidance. Be with our partners: the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan, the South Sudan Evangelical Presbyterian Church, RECONCILE (Resource Centre for Civil Leadership), the South Sudan Council of Churches, and Across. Strengthen them with the power of your Holy Spirit as they witness to the strong love of Christ, advocating for peace and justice in a situation that is only hopeful because we follow a resurrected Christ, in whose name we pray, Amen.
July 9 marks the fourth anniversary of the independence of South Sudan. We recall the sense of unity and optimism that attended the new nation’s birth. Weary of warfare and brutality, South Sudan’s people longed for peace, prosperity, and a better future, and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) shared their hopes and their joy.
Four years later, those aspirations have become a dream deferred. At the end of 2013, conflict between South Sudan’s political leaders fueled ethnic tensions and sparked renewed fighting. Since then, more than 1.5 million people have been displaced, including more than 800,000 children. The United Nations and international organizations have documented widespread human rights abuses, including gang-rape and torture.
Escalating violence has forced many aid agencies to relocate staff and suspend programs in some parts of South Sudan. Aid agencies have been forced to suspend life-saving interventions, including nutrition programs for children and distribution of blankets, sleeping mats, hygiene products, shelter materials, and mosquito nets. As a result, more than 10,000 children under five face malnutrition and nearly 300,000 are left in need of aid.
Once we celebrated with the people of South Sudan. Now we share their tears. I encourage all members of the PC(USA)—indeed, all members of the community of faith around the world—to remember South Sudan’s people in prayer. Please pray for:
- A renewed zeal for peace, forgiveness, reconciliation, and unity in South Sudan;
- Strength, comfort, and hope for survivors of violence and for those who have lost loved ones;
- Courage, persistence, and gifts of discernment for the leadership of PC(USA) partners (the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan, the South Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church, the South Sudan Council of Churches, and RECONCILE) that they may minister with joy, creativity, and effectiveness in the midst of strife;
- Wisdom, humility, and a spirit of servant-leadership among South Sudan’s political leaders;
- Impartiality, inspiration, and integrity for representatives of regional governments and international organizations as they seek to mediate disputes and accompany South Sudan to stability, wholeness, and peace.