South Sudanese who fled recent ethnic violence carry food aid from a World Food Program distribution center in Pibor, South Sudan, Jan. 12. The outbreak of violence in Jonglei state, which began in late December, has led to a "new cycle of revenge and re taliation," Sudan's Council of Churches said. CNS photo/Hereward Holland, Reuters

Sudanese churches commit to helping youths from war-torn Jonglei state

By  Catholic News Service
  • January 20, 2012

JUBA, South Sudan - The Sudan Council of Churches has committed to involving young people from war-torn Jonglei state in a grass-roots peace process.

The council said the state's young people have no political leadership. A series of retaliatory attacks between ethnic groups in Jonglei has displaced tens of thousands of people since late December.

Among the factors that led to the fighting between the state's Lou Nuer and Murle communities is that their political leaders "proved to be out of touch with their people, particularly the armed youth, and were unable significantly to influence events on the ground, nor even to provide accurate information about the situation," the council said.

"Local church leaders also appeared unable to influence events," the council of churches, of which the Sudan Catholic Bishops' Conference is a member, said in a Jan. 18 statement from Juba. It said a church-run peace initiative, set up at the request of the government of South Sudan, was "dealing with the symptoms rather than the root causes."

"There is a clear disconnect between the youth and both the traditional and political leaders" in the region, it said.

Council members expressed their "deep sorrow and regret that violence has broken out in South Sudan so soon" after its July independence from Sudan.

"As a nation we need to rediscover and reclaim the peace and unity which was felt so strongly" during the independence celebrations, the council said.

The outbreak of violence in Jonglei has led to a "new cycle of revenge and retaliation," the council said.

The Lou Nuer sent at least 6,000 warriors to attack the Murle in late December and early January. Since then, the Murle have carried out revenge attacks, according to the Associated Press.

No reliable death toll has been established.

South Sudan's deployment of 3,000 security forces to the state to quell the attacks is "too little, too late," the council said.

Expressions of ethnic hatred "could be the precursor to larger-scale atrocities," it warned.

"The peace process will now include the provision of security, humanitarian relief to affected communities," as well as a church-led effort in which the council will "identify, train, equip and support key individuals from within the communities (and particularly from within the youth), who will act as peace mobilizers," it said.

Urging all communities in Jonglei to immediately stop all armed conflicts, "whatever the perceived provocation," the council said it committed to "a long and severe peace process which does not focus primarily on dealing with the short-term symptoms of conflict, but rather on the long-term changing of attitudes and value systems which will eventually lead to a generation free of armed conflict."

A 20-year civil war between Sudan and South Sudan ended in 2005.

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