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SSudan Church Leaders' Easter Messages Urge Peace

FILE - Church members dance as they welcome the Archbishop of Cantebury Justin Welby at the ECS All Saints church in Juba on Jan. 30, 2014.

JUBA — Some church leaders in South Sudan are calling on the signatories of the revitalized peace agreement to implement the deal, adding the country’s economic crisis has affected the majority of South Sudanese who are yearning for peace and better opportunities.

In their Easter messages to South Sudanese faithful, the church leaders called for togetherness, peace and nation-building for the world's youngest country.

The Moderator General of the Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan, the Reverend James Dong, told VOA the signatories of the 2018 peace agreement hold the keys to stability in South Sudan.

"Our message to the leadership of South Sudan is that they should rise up to their responsibilities and take the challenges as part of their responsibility and give us peace. The leaders should embark on the implementation of the R-ARCSS signed in 2018 in letter and spirit," Dong said.

"We are also happy to hear that our President Salva Kiir has repeatedly said that he will not take this country back to war which is a good statement," adding that he hopes that will continue to be the case.

He said church leaders understand issues affecting South Sudanese, stressing that peace remains the key demand of South Sudanese.

"We know we are passing through difficult times and economic hiccups but the only thing that could wave this away is to have peace in place. When there is peace, everybody would work independently and produce their own food." he said. "So I wish the South Sudanese faithful that this Easter will not be celebrated as usual but turn to God in prayers and fasting that started long ago and is broken today. That should be a meaning of prayers and fasting with a change of heart."

Archbishop Stephen Ameyu of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Juba called on the South Sudanese people to embrace the spirit of togetherness and build a new peaceful future.

"I would ask our church and political leaders that Christ through his resurrection can expel our doubts about one another, about our political affiliation so that we can see the fact that Christ brought to our lives as an event to celebrate together," he said.

Speaking to VOA, Ameyu said "As the Holy Father remained us let us be together despite all that had happened between us, let us be together [and] reconstruct a new future in front of us."

The head of the Anglican Church in South Sudan, the Reverend Justin Badi Arama, urged South Sudanese to reject hate and instead focus on peace and nation-building.

"As we celebrate Easter this year, we advise all South Sudanese to leave behind all unproductive practices of hatred, division and violence instead to focus on peace, reconciliation and productive work for the good of our nation. May the joy and blessing of the risen Christ be with you and your loved ones," Arama told VOA.

He criticized a recent decision by the Church of England to support and bless same-sex marriage, saying the Episcopal Church of South Sudan does not support same-sex marriage.

"It is unbiblical and therefore it is sinful. We declared impaired communion with provinces that embrace such practice. We advise our entire bishops, priests and faithful to only work and fellowship with those churches around the Anglican Communion that are genuinely orthodox," Arama stressed.

He said the Episcopal Church of South Sudan will continue to uphold and stand on what he called the historic faith of the apostles and early church fathers.