By Dak Buoth,
April 28, 2021(Nyamilepedia) — South Sudan is a religious Nation of believers, majority of whom are Christians, Traditional African believers and Rastafarians et cetera. Non believers and Muslims also exist but in a small number. Under the South Sudan transitional constitution, 2011, citizens have a right to worship any religion of their choice.
At the time of the clamor for South Sudan’s independence, the church, unlike the mosque , played a significant role in the fight for secession of Southern Sudan. In fact, several priests or pastors went to the frontline and others went to jail for defending the course for which million people died. Most south Sudanese elites of nowadays were educated and trained by church-based institutions.
The traditional African believers, on the other hand, were offering spiritual guidance, protection and healing services to the downtrodden through their divine powers that they acquired by virtue of their knowledge and long stay on the earth.
By then the mosque and its leaders were siding with the Islamic Regimes in Khartoum, that was opposing and objecting the quest for South Sudan’s independence.
However, at the onset of the ongoing civil war in South Sudan, the church and the mosque find themselves on one side. They went quiet as the massacres and messes were being conducted in Juba and other parts of South Sudan. Their silence speaks volumes.
Some of you might have come across the famous quote of the Prominent South African clergy and Activist in the person of Dismund Tutu who said ‘‘If you are neutral in a situation of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant, has it foot on the tail of the mouse, and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.’’
These days South Sudanese are used to misconstruing issues wittingly and unwittingly. And because of this proclivity of twisting issues, they might even say that the Sunday incident in Rumbek was an attack on the church. Thus, it’s important to clean or clear the air with a view to avoid confusion that has characterized every public debate in our country.
On 25th April, 2021, we woke up to the news that ‘‘father Christian Carlassare was shot in the legs at his residence by assailants on Sunday night.’’ He was Bishop-Elect in the diocese of Rumbek. Let me also offer and add my sincere prayer to that of the catholic fraternity for Bishop Carlassare Christian’s quick recovery.
Many residents of Rumbek town, and those who had been following the events and happenings in Lake State will tell you, that this is not news, because such deadly incidents occurred nearly every day.
On that day, when I saw the legs of the Bishop bleeding while lying in the hospital, I soon remember the stories we were told at an Inter-Faith Dialogue organized by Jesuit Hakima Centre (JHC) in Nairobi mid last year.
One of the eloquent panelists, Father Oscar Nduti’s presentation stuck in my mind. He first made two insightful statements which I think I should share for the residents of Rumbek and South Sudan as a whole. ‘‘Your conscience cannot be dictated by other persons.’’ Further, he added what Socrates once said, unexamined life is not worth living.’’
On tit for tat concept, which keeps fueling the communal violence in Lake State, he emphasized on the quote of Dr. Martin Luther King jr. who said ‘‘an eye for an eye only makes someone blind’’. He went on to narrate his good experiences in Rumbek and especially in the Ceibet Area.
At one point he said, they tried to plant some cash crops namely groundnuts, onions and tomatoes. Within a short time, he said they started harvesting and later found it difficult to store these agricultural products.
He avers that if South Sudan was allowed to have peace and cultivate, it would feed the all of the east and central African region. Moreover, he narrated the past and similar incident in Rumbek where Kenyan Priest Victor Luka Odhiambo was shot and killed in November 2018. We almost cried on hearing this story. He also reached a point where he hit the nail on its head, and said the issue is that civilians were heavily armed at the onset of the war in 2013 without considering long and short term impacts. It’s common knowledge that citizens were sensitized that certain communities were coming to take over the government, thus armed weapons were distributed in the hands of civilians to defend themselves and the government at the time.
Right now, the hurdle facing the government is that it’s unable to disarm the armed citizens, for they are more than the soldiers tasked to do disarmament.
You would recall, before and during the conflict there was what became known as the ‘Dutkubeny campaign’ that was aimed at arming Dinka civilians, to undertake what they called ‘rescuing the President’. Looking at these scenarios, you will find that the culprit is the government of the day. They started a crisis that they are unable to contain at the moment. And since they are not able to provide security which is the cardinal objective of any government, their senses and advisors should inform them that they have no business staying in office and occupying the space for no reason. In the wake of the 9/11 attack in the USA, Canadian lawyer and politician John Manley said: the most important responsibility of government is the preservation of order and protection of its citizens. And the most important civil liberty is freedom from fear of harm on the part of the civilian population, without which our other liberties mean very little.’’
When we were boys and very new in the church, we used to watch the film where Jesus Christ was killed and crucified by the forces of Pontius Pilate.
We could feel like crying on seeing him being beaten and speared by soldiers alongside two other convicts. People would say don’t cry for his blood and death are what brings salvation and freedom to human beings. Equally, the bible taught us that Jesus died for us. Many church goers were taught that ‘‘Christ shed his blood and died on the cross for our sins; that the blood of Christ is the price that was paid for our freedom.’’ In view of the foregoing, shall I say, may the blood of these Christ’ men namely the late Father, Victor Luka Odhiambo and Bishop Carlasare Christian bring lasting political salvation to the residents of Rumbek and South Sudan as a whole.
The writer is the chairman of Liech community Association in Kenya, the views expressed here are his own, and he can be reached for comments via email@example.com
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