With South Sudan on the brink of civil war, here's what Church leaders are saying

Sudanese people Credit UNAMID via Flickr CC BY NC ND 20 CNA UNAMID via Flickr CC BY NC ND 2.0.

Heavy fighting in Juba, the capital city of South Sudan, prompted Church leaders in the country to issue a statement this week condemning the violence and asking for prayers.

"We condemn all acts of violence without exception. The time for carrying and using weapons has ended; now is the time to build a peaceful nation," the South Sudan Council of Churches said in a July 10 statement.

Since Thursday, heavy fighting has been reported between the forces of the Sudan People's Liberation Army, loyal to President Salva Kiir, and the SPLA in Opposition, loyal to First Vice President, Riek Machar.

"We make no judgement as to how or why they occurred, nor who is to blame, but we note with concern that there have been a number of incidents recently, and that tension is increasing," the Church leaders wrote.

There is not yet an official toll, but several hundred people are believed to have died in the fighting of the past few days, and several thousand more have fled their homes.

"We pray for those who have been killed, and for their families, and we ask God's forgiveness for those who have done the killing. However we also urge repentance and a firm commitment from all armed individuals, forces and communities, and from their leaders, to create an atmosphere where violence is not an option," the Church leaders wrote.

On Monday, President Kiir and Vice President Machar issued a ceasefire, which appears to be holding.

A fairly new country, South Sudan gained its independence from Sudan in 2011. In its brief history, the African country has been marred by an ethnically motivated civil war, with the Dinka supporters of Kiir fighting against the Nuer followers of Machar.

The recent fighting ended a peace deal signed last year between Kiir and Machar last August, and has local and international leaders fearing that the country may fall into another civil war.

The Church leaders in their statement also expressed their concern that the fighting is not limited to the capital city, and has been taking place in other places in South Sudan, including Yei, where the missionary Sister Dr. Veronika was killed in May.

"We are encouraged by the statements from both President Salva Kiir and First Vice President Riek Machar calling for calm. We add our voices to theirs, and urge soldiers and civilians to refrain from provocative words and actions, and to do everything in their power to avoid escalating the situation," the Church leaders said.

"We assure you of our prayers during these difficult times, and once again call for calm and hope."

Besides the Church leaders, the United Nations Security Council, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the UN Mission in South Sudan, Intergovernmental Authority on Development also voiced their condemnation of the violence and their hope to return to peace.

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