UNMISS organizes forum on ongoing peace processes for religious leaders
CENTRAL EQUATORIA – An UNMISS-funded panel discussion for religious leaders in South Sudan’s capital, Juba, had a single focus: Infusing fresh momentum into the ongoing peace process by exploring progress made, challenges faced, and most importantly, highlighting the vital role faith-based leaders can play in galvanizing the push for peace.
The interactive sessions witnessed a frank exchange of ideas between panelists and participants.
“The permanent ceasefire largely continues to hold, and we must take advantage of the relative stability it has given us as a nation to further consolidate peace gains,” said Gabriel Guy, Director of Communications, Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (R-JMEC).
Mr. Guy, speaking in his role as a panelist, highlighted the urgent need to graduate Necessary Unified Forces; the need to set up a hybrid court for South Sudan; and the long-overdue establishment of the Commission for Truth, Reconciliation and Healing, if the country is to meet all benchmarks contained within the Revitalized Peace Agreement during the remaining 12 months of the transitional period.
Victor Fasama, Team Leader of the UN Peacekeeping mission’s Civil Affairs arm in Central Equatoria State, agrees.
“While significant progress has been made, there must be a sense of urgency to fulfil all the provisions of the Revitalized Agreement if elections are to be held on time,” said Mr. Fasama. “The South Sudanese people deserve a chance at shaping a peaceful, prosperous future.”
According to Madinata Kamara, a panelist and Mr. Fasama’s colleague, an important step towards durable peace is for communities to eschew violence and foster social cohesion.
“There is power in unity, while conflict only brings devastation in its wake,” said Ms. Kamara simply yet eloquently.
Her views were strongly echoed by Moses Telar Cindut, Director, Bureau of Religious Affairs.
“To silence the guns in South Sudan, we must first purge our hearts of negativity and peacefully disarm our communities,” he stated.
For Pastor Richard Okello Taban, a participant, these discussions were of utmost importance.
“I have learned a lot from the conversation today,” said Pastor Taban. “The church plays an important role in fostering peace and reconciliation among communities. I believe we have a huge part in spreading the word about people’s participation in the ongoing peace process in our country,” he stated. “Going forward, I will try even harder to ensure members of my congregation truly shun violence and instead, begin to think of the future they want to build,” he added.
Dominica Anthony Olum, a women’s coordinator for the Catholic church was equally moved.
“Such debate enriches us because we learn about the role every individual can play to foster peace and tranquility at the grassroots. I will make sure to spread the word among my community that we must begin to embrace our diversity. Our different cultures are a strength not a weakness and we have to unite under the umbrella of our national identity as South Sudanese,” she averred passionately.
Dominica’s final message: “I urge our leaders to listen to the voices of their people. We have suffered enough and deserve peace now.”
Other panelists included members of the Community Empowerment for Progress Organization, South Sudan Peace Commission, and Favour Africa Ministries International.
The event was organized by UNMISS in partnership with Favour Africa Ministries International, and brought together some 80 interfaith leaders drawn from major churches and mosques in Juba.