Inter-religious committee established to help resolve intercommunal conflicts in Greater Jonglei
In a bid to make the most of their arguably significant influence on the attitudes and behaviour of the South Sudanese people, religious leaders in the Greater Jonglei region have established an inter-religious committee to urge feuding communities to reconcile.
“We can help rebuild the trust that has been lost over the last six years,” says Bishop John Jok, chairperson of the new multifaith-based entity.
The joining of spiritual powers was the main outcome of a two-day peace dialogue organized by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan in collaboration with Finn Church Aid. The event brought together 33 religious leaders from Akobo, Pibor and Bor to deliberate on how to best support and promote peace in the country.
The Greater Jonglei region is plagued by recurring intercommunal tensions, with the Murle frequently clashing with both the Bor Dinka and the Lou-Nuer ethnic groups. The violence is, as pointed out by John Jok and others, often accompanied by cattle raids, child abductions and other revenge-inducing crimes.
“We will go to [the communities of] the Murle, Jie, Kachipo, Anyuak, Dinka and Nuer to spread messages of peace,” Bishop Jok says.
Isidore Boutchue, a Bor-based Civil Affairs Officer serving with the UN peacekeeping mission, emphasizes that a local approach is necessary to complement national efforts of bringing rivalling parties together.
“If you want to have lasting peace we need to have rapprochement at the grassroots level as well,” he says.
Apart from forming the inter-religious committee, composed of seven members, the clergies gathered at the meeting also developed strategies for further reconciliation-promoting interventions to be undertaken by leading figures of conflict-affected communities.
“Peace is very important for all of us in South Sudan and we must embrace it,” concluded Sheik Thon Awuou, Secretary-General of the Islamic Council in Jonglei and member of the new cross-religious institution.