Health worker Betty Achan examines two-year-old Njuma Simon, who suffers from malnutrition, at the Al Sabbah Children’s Hospital in Juba, South Sudan. Photo: © UNICEF/UN057888/Hatcher-Moore
Leaders from the Anglican, Catholic and Presbyterian churches in Canada have called on the Government of Canada to commit more resources to relieve hunger and de-escalate civil strife in South Sudan.
In a letter addressed to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau dated April 27, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, Bishop Douglas Crosby, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, and the Rev. Douglas Rollwage, moderator of the 2017 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Canada, spoke of the “gross violations of fundamental human rights” taking place in South Sudan as drought and war put a reported 5.5 million South Sudanese at risk of famine.
According to a February 20 UN news report 100,000 people in South Sudan’s Unity State are already experiencing famine conditions.
Noting that all three churches have close ties through formal ecclesiastical structures and through humanitarian work involving relief and development agencies, Hiltz, Crosby and Rollwage called on the government to provide further financial support to the UN’s mission in South Sudan, and to rally the international community against the food crisis now affecting 20 million people in South Sudan, Yemen, Somalia and parts of Nigeria.
They also asked that Canada encourage the international community to re-establish rule of law and human rights protections in South Sudan, and work with business and international partners to prevent the sale and provision of arms to South Sudanese military factions.
Hiltz, Crosby and Rollwage cited two communiqués from the Catholic bishops of South Sudan that detailed the killing and torture of civilians, the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war, humanitarian aid and desecration of the bodies of the dead by both government and rebel forces.
They warned that if the violence continues, conflict between South Sudan’s different ethnic groups could make eventual reconciliation much more difficult. “The deep social scars which will inevitably follow this civil war could put South Sudan into a perpetual state of volatility,” they said.
However, the letter did commend the Canadian government for contributions it has already made, including $119 million toward relief efforts in South Sudan, Yemen, Somalia and Nigeria (of which $39 million is earmarked specifically for South Sudan), and the 10 peacekeepers Canada has sent to participate in the United Nations Mission in South Sudan.
The letter called Trudeau’s decision to commit relief money to the region a “tangible witness” to the government’s concern about the situation, but added that “more needs to be done.”
The World Council of Churches (WCC) and the All Africa Conference of Churches have called for a Global Day of Prayer to End Famine, to be held May 21, in hopes that it will energize Christians around the world to provide spiritual and material support for the affected regions.
“May our prayers invoke the grace of God, and mobilize people to bring about peace and an end to hunger and violence,” the letter says.
Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF), the Anglican Church of Canada’s relief and development agency, has also been active in providing emergency relief to the region.
In addition to its longer term work in South Sudan, Yemen, Somalia and Nigeria, PWRDF has made a $20,000 contribution to the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) for famine relief in South Sudan through the Canadian Foodgrains Bank. As well, PWRDF has contributed $50,000 to the ACT Alliance appeal for South Sudan and Kenya, and $30,000 to the ACT Alliance appeal for drought relief in Somalia.
Both ADRA and the ACT Alliance work with local partners in the affected countries.