Bentiu — A Catholic priest in Unity state has urged people to discourage the spread of violence across South Sudan's ten states while addressing a congregation on Monday at Saint Francis Church in Bentiu.
Father Joseph Makuey said the Church was deeply concerned about the crisis that has hit South Sudan since 15 December when fighting within the army in the capital Juba, quickly spread to other parts of the country.
The dispute between members of the Presidential Guards comes after months of political wrangling between those loyal to President Salva Kiir and a group of 13 senior members of the ruling SPLM who have criticised his failure to hold vital party meetings and his "dictatorial" tendencies.
Makuey asked people to pray for peace in the new nation, which became independent from Sudan in 2011. He described the infighting between members of the SPLM as "meaningless" to the people of South Sudan.
"The message that I would like to convey to the people of Unity state [...] should continue pray for peace, truly this moment is a critical moment because we have lost many lives in South Sudan but I firmly believe through our prayers almighty God will change this critical situation", added the priest.
The commander of the South Sudanese army in Unity state rebelled over the weekend declaring himself as the new governor, siding with Riek Machar - the former Vice President - who Kiir sacked in July.
Machar denies the fighting in Juba last week was an attempt to overthrow Kiir but is now leading a rebellion against the government from an unknown location. Both sides have declared a willingness to talk but so far mediation efforts have not been fruitful.
The priest urged the leaders of South Sudan to come together as the fighting was result in death and causing inter-communal tensions, not only in Juba where the conflict began, but in Unity and Jonglei, where revenge attacks are believed to have taken place.
Makuey says the Church seriously condemns the continuing escalation of the conflicts and is deeply concerned that South Sudan could be heading towards war.
The internal disputes between senior SPLM officials should not target innocent people who have no connection with their political interests.
Makuey criticised the ruling party for failing to reach a deal to stop the violence from spreading and called on the international community to mediate between the sides.
The Parish priest warned civilians against siding with either of the warring parties, urging them to refrain from tribal hatred, adding that all South Sudanese are God's children.
Makuey, who working as a parish priest in Rubkotna county, urged everyone in the state to remain united regardless of their cultural background. The Church's message during this Christmas season is about peace, he said.
The priest has been transporting many members of the Dinka ethnic group to the camp of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan in Rubkotna county, to protect them from potential reprisal attacks from Nuer youth.
The priest reminded leaders to forget about the past. He urged them to unite for the sake of the progress of South Sudan and the people they are supposed to represent.
POPE FRANCIS CALLS FOR DIALOGUE
In first Christmas Day address as leaser of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis, called for dialogue to end the conflict around the world, including in South Sudan.
"Wars shatter and hurt so many lives!" he said.
The pontiff called for "social harmony in South Sudan, where current tensions have already caused numerous victims and are threatening peaceful coexistence in that young state."
The Pope also urged for dialogue to end the conflicts in Syria, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Iraq, as well as praying for a "favourable outcome" to the Middle East peace process between the Israelis and Palestinians.