Church leaders from South Sudan are arriving in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, all set to take part in the start of negotiations between South Sudan's president Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar.
The negotiations aim to find solutions for the world's newest nation, reeling from violence since last year that has left thousands dead and millions homeless.
Archbishop Paulino Lukudu Loro of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Juba, Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul Yak of the Episcopal Church of Sudan are mong these church leaders, as well as Peter Gai Lual Marrow of the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan, who was scheduled to arrive to Addis Ababa on 9 May.
These church leaders are accompanied by Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia, former general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC) and ecumenical special envoy for South Sudan and Sudan, who will be representing the All Africa Conference of Churches. Dr Nigussu Legesse, the WCC's programme executive for advocacy for Africa, will also be present.
The participation of church leaders in the Addis Ababa negotiations comes after the recent visit to Juba of an ecumenical delegation which urged leaders on both sides to use the negotiations as an opportunity to agree to dialogue and implement an immediate ceasefire.
Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the WCC, was in Juba last week meeting with representatives of local churches. He stressed that South Sudanese churches have "rich spiritual resources to help find a way towards peace."
"Churches in South Sudan have a significant role in national dialogue, affirming unity and a sense of nation-building by strengthening a process of reconciliation," Tveit said. "In this process of reconciliation, youth and women must be empowered."
"We will pray and work with the churches in South Sudan, while they continue addressing these struggles in their pilgrimage for justice and peace," Tveit concluded.
Among other efforts by the church bodies to end conflict in South Sudan, the South Sudan Council of Churches (SSCC) along with the South Sudan's Islamic Council will participate in the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) peace process.
Media contact WCC: Nigussu Legesse: Nigussu.Legesse[at]wcc-coe.org, +41793935541