By Melissa Hinnen
“Please join me in praying for our brothers and sisters in South Sudan, our world’s newest nation,” Thomas Kemper, who leads the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries, said today in response to the political violence that erupted in South Sudan. “It is imperative that all who have voice and power in the country make every effort to find a peaceful resolution and to avoid a political, economic, and humanitarian crisis,” Kemper said.
According to Reuters, tensions began escalating when South Sudan’s president, Salva Kiir Mayardit, announced that an attempted coup had been quashed. An estimated 500 people have been killed since the fighting broke out on December 15. Another 34,000 South Sudanese are taking refuge in United Nations’ bases in the capital of Juba and in Bor.
The World Council of Churches general secretary, the Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit, wrote in a letter to the South Sudanese president: “The people of South Sudan have suffered for several decades and are now longing for peace and justice. We pray that the situation will quickly normalize and that peace will prevail again soon.”
All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC) also expressed grave concern for the escalating violence and called on church leaders, government leaders, individuals, and neighboring countries to work together to ensure “dialogue and consultations between religious, political, traditional, and civic leaders to discern ways of resolving all conflicts peacefully.”
According to Kemper, “South Sudan and the welfare of its people are of deep concern to The United Methodist Church and the General Board of Global Ministries. The church has relief work in several areas, and there are a number of United Methodist congregations in South Sudan.”
United Methodists have a notable presence in the two-year-old country. There are 16 United Methodist churches, most in the Central Equatoria State, which includes Yei River County and Lainya County. The Rev. Fred Dearing, Yei District Superintendent in South Sudan, emailed that he and his wife Libby, who are both Global Ministries volunteers, are in the United States for the holidays. According to Dearing and to Lynn and Sharon Fogelman, who also serve in Yei, the situation in that part of the country continues to be peaceful.
The Fogelmans are missionaries who serve through the Mission Society in partnership with Global Ministries and the United Methodist Church in South Sudan. They affirmed that violence did not flair up in Yei, however, “Bor, in Jonglei State, is in a bad state. We continue to pray for wisdom for the military and government leaders,” they wrote in an email. The Fogelmans will fly back to the United States for the holidays, as originally planned.
The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) has offices in South Sudan that address the needs of conflict-affected communities and vulnerable groups through the provision of basic services and sustainable livelihood opportunities. UMCOR staff members in the Juba office, as well as in Aweil and Yei, are safe and are closely monitoring the situation.
Kemper said, “Global Ministries is committed to working with the people of South Sudan to promote peaceful relations and continued healing. Particularly in this time of Advent, we are reminded of the mighty vision for the end of violence and oppression through the birth of the Christ child.”
To support UMCOR’s work in South Sudan please make a gift to Advance #3021793.
Melissa Hinnen is the director of content and public information for the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries.