6 July [ENInews]-As South Sudan prepares to mark its first anniversary as a nation on 9 July, Christian leaders said it has made positive progress, but also highlighted significant problems.
Ahead of the celebration in the city of Juba, Roman Catholic Archbishop Paulino Lukudu Loro of Juba and Sudan Episcopal Church Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul issued a joint pastoral letter congratulating President Salva Kiir and the citizens for reaching the landmark celebrations. They also termed this as spiritual journey of the people.
"We stand together ... to celebrate the first anniversary ... and to express our joys and concerns," said the letter.
The two churches had worked together during the decades of war and peace in the mainly Christian south, which broke from Sudan on 9 July, 2011 after a referendum on independence. Its freedom came after a nearly 50-year struggle against the mainly-Islamic north.
With independence, the global church welcomed the new nation, but highlighted the people's hunger for development and services. "Roads are being built, telecommunications networks are expanding ... government institutions are beginning to develop. A transitional constitution was produced. A nascent sense of national pride and identity is beginning to form," the leaders noted.
But these positive developments have been blighted by reports of financial theft by high ranking officials, endemic corruption, ethnic discontent and tribalism within government institutions, according to the leaders. They said the delivery of basic infrastructure and services such as roads, health education and water has not met the people's high expectations.
At the same time, more challenges are emerging as the two nations clash over oil and their common border. In April, clashes in the borderland area of Heglig renewed fears of an all-out war between the two former adversaries.
"We reject war as an option to resolve disputes and call upon all parties to implement a meaningful ceasefire and withdraw forces from the border region," the leaders said.
The new nation gives us an opportunity for renewed effort toward achieving peaceful relations between Sudan and South Sudan, said the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams in a news release on 6 July.
"I welcome the vision which the Sudanese church has set before us of 'two nations at peace with each other,' cooperating to make the best use of their God-given resources, promoting free interaction between their citizens, living side by side in solidarity and mutual respect," he said.
Williams asked that urgent humanitarian assistance be allowed to reach people displaced by conflicts in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states as well as in Darfur. While expressing concern over demolition of churches in Khartoum, he urged respect for freedom of worship and religion for all.
Article from ENI by Fredrick Nzwili