January 1, 2014 (JUBA) - South Sudanese religious leaders in the United States have expressed deep concern over the targeting of civilians in the conflict gripping the country, calling on president Salva Kiir to show leadership in resolving the unfolding crisis.
- Civilians streaming into the UNMISS compound in Bor, capital of South Sudan’s Jonglei state, seeking refuge from the violence (Photo: UNMISS/Hailemichael Gebrekrstos)
In a statement bearing the signature of the secretary-general for the South Sudanese Council, David Yel Wol, the group said they wished to highlight the plight of the civil population trapped in areas where government forces were engaged with armed dissidents, saying women, children and the elderly were among those killed during the violence.
“Politicians with personal ambitions have already caused this unrest, but the poor people are the ones who are suffering from this situation, which has led to social insecurity and a feeling of persecution”, said the statement, dated 1 January.
The group, which largely comprises of members of the Roman Catholic Church in Texas, has called on the South Sudanese army (SPLA) to respect civil and human rights in conflict zones, saying civilians should not be blamed for the presence of armed groups.
“We need to look for a way to dialogue with these armed elements, because violence begets more violence,” the statement said.
The statement was issued following a number of prayer services held at St Joseph Catholic Church in Amarillo, Texas calling for restoration of peace and protection of the unarmed civil population by the government and those involved in the conflict.
The group has urged the government to “act wisely” and engage in “true dialogue” in order to avoid more violence and death.
The group also urged armed rebel factions to “reflect” on their role in the conflict and “avoid more pain and bloodshed in our country”.
“Arms are not an effective instrument to demand your rights. “You can’t get any right through violence. You have to do that in a civic manner”, the statement said.
The group has also expressed their “unwavering support” for the president, saying they were confident in his ability to find “a better solution to end hostility towards innocent citizens”.