Washington D.C., Aug 31, 2016 / 16:01 pm
Amid a civil war, a humanitarian crisis, and the threat of mass starvation, the Church in South Sudan is still working to bring Christ to a troubled country.
After meeting with Archbishop Paulino Lukudu Loro of Juba, Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) noted that “the Church plays a key role, as always and everywhere, in the provision of humanitarian aid,” and that “the bishops I met with are just absolutely committed to living out Matthew 25, the vulnerable people and helping people as if they were Christ.”
Smith, chair of the House Subcommittee on Global Human Rights, just returned from a fact-finding human rights mission to South Sudan where he met with religious, humanitarian, and political leaders , including the Archbishop Lukudu, President Salva Kiir Mayardit, and Defense Minister Kuol Manyang Juuk.
South Sudan became an independent country in 2011 but it has been torn by a civil war since December 2013, between the state forces – the Sudan People’s Liberation Army – and opposition forces, as well as sectarian conflict.
A peace agreement was signed but it was broken by violence earlier this summer, which prompted the South Sudan Council of Churches to publicly condemn the violence and pray for peace. A ceasefire was then ordered by President Kiir and then-Vice President Machar in July. Machar, the former rebel leader, ended up fleeing the country.
The scale of the humanitarian crisis in South Sudan is immense: similar to that of the Middle East with the Islamic State, Smith noted to CNA.
There are an estimated 1.7 million people displaced within the country, more than 800,000 refugees, and almost 3 million people at risk of “life-threatening hunger,” according to congressional testimony by a USAID official earlier this year. Many are without food and medicine, Smith said.
Almost 6 million people “are facing a severe hunger crisis” there, Catholic Relief Services reports.