WCC- In South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the peace and reconciliation work of pastors, priests and lay Christians remains critical for the people, as the global church and ecumenical groups amplify their concerns over the complex but separate conflicts in the two African countries.
On 25 July, Rev. Charles Berahino, executive secretary of the Peace and Diakonia department at the All Africa Conference of Churches highlighted the deep concern of the churches in Africa, as the humanitarian and political situations in the two countries continued to deteriorate.
Berahino, a Burundian Quaker pastor, spoke in an interview as Pax Christi International, the Roman Catholic peace movement of 140 members and the Union of International Superior General-Union of Superiors General held special prayers for the people and the environment for the two countries.
“The situation in South Sudan remains tense following the differences between the president and his deputy. Inter-communal fighting in the rural areas is worsening the situation,” said Berahino. “The humanitarian situation is bad, as the violence displaces millions of people inside the country and keeps others outside as refugees.”
In Congo, at least 146 well-organized and influential armed groups and bandits operate in the east of the country, according to the official. He also raised the churches’ concern over the presence of foreign troops in the eastern region and the worsening humanitarian situation.
“We are organizing with our ecumenical partners to see how best to influence the situation. We want the world to know that the Democratic Republic of Congo is a country of great concern,” said Berahino.
Pax Christi and the Union of International Superior General-Union of Superiors General noted that the specific contexts in the two countries were different, but both had struggled to overcome violent conflict and profound challenges.
“Despite the pain and difficulties in the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan, faith-filled and committed women and men are working together every day to serve the people of God, to celebrate the beloved community, and build a peaceful, nonviolent society,” reads the organization’s online prayer invite.
Rev. Teresia Wamuyu Wachira, a Kenyan Roman Catholic sister who is a co-president of Pax Christi, said the prayer gathering had been called for the love of the people of South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the continent, and for the interest of creating cultures of peace in the world using active nonviolence.
“The two countries we have gathered for and pray with have for decades experienced and continue to experience violent conflicts. We are also reminded and brought face-to-face with the reality that there are children who have been born in war, and therefore have never experienced peace, justice, and joy. It is for these children that we gather today,” said Wachira in a message.
According to the sister, the dreams of the youth in these countries have been shattered because of the deep-rooted conflicts. The women also were also unable to breastfeed their children in peace, feed their families, sing their children lullabies, and network with the other women.
The men have also been forced to carry guns to protect their families, and have been deprived of their dignity of protecting and fending for their families, according to the sister.
“As peace practitioners and peace builders we are invited to advocate, to lobby, to invest and to challenge our governments and the global world to invest not in weapons, but to invest in what matters,” said Wachira.
Instead, the co-president called for investments in water, health, education, food, and human security—and also for just peace.