The South Sudanese Christian community in Australia has united to call for harmony and reconciliation as the third round of peace talks to resolve the African conflict get underway.
A group of 26 church leaders from seven different denominations – Uniting, Anglican, Catholic, Lutheran, Salvation Army, Presbyterian and Baptist – gathered in Canberra this week for a national dialogue.
They penned an ecumenical statement which was delivered to the peace talks in Ethiopia on Thursday. The talks began on 17 May and are scheduled to finish on 21 May.
The first round of peace talks last December ended with a ceasefire agreement that was violated less within 24 hours while the second round ended in a stalemate.
In its joint statement, South Sudanese church leaders acknowledged the urgent need for healing and the importance of bridging tribal divisions, both within the diaspora community in Australia and in South Sudan.
“We diminish our potential for healthy lives and flourishing communities when we have allowed tribal and denominational loyalties to supersede national loyalty,” they said.
“When tribal or denominational loyalty dominates, we cannot provide, under God, the quality of leadership that our people need.”
The statement also identified the role of social media in inflaming tensions within the South Sudanese community in Australia.
The church leaders reaffirmed their commitment to promote responsible use of social media so that it becomes a platform to unite, rather than divide.
Female leadership was another area of focus, with the South Sudanese church community calling for greater involvement of women in the current peace talks.
“Women have a major role in peace building and challenging the way that our society has been dominated by militarised conflict for decades,” the statement said.
“Right now and going forward women need to be given their own space in the mediation process, and a mechanism established and followed, that selects non-partisan women to be involved in current peace talks.”