By Stan Friedman
WUBEL, SOUTH SUDAN (December 27, 2013) — Leaders of the Evangelical Covenant Church of South Sudan (ECCSS) have fled to this village 27 miles south of Malakal, where the denomination has its headquarters.
Fighting among military forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and Riek Machar, who Kiir ousted as vice president in July, erupted in the capital city of Juba earlier this month and has spread throughout the country. Some 120,000 people, mostly civilians, have fled the country or sought refuge in United Nations compounds located in the affected areas of the Republic of South Sudan.
Mathew, one of the church leaders, happened to be in Kampala, Uganda, when fighting erupted and remains there, unable to travel to his home country. He said other leaders reported that they were safe though clashes were now occurring in Wubel, too.
The families of the church leaders are safe in another part of the country. Covenant missionary James Tang is trying to get money to them so that they can travel to a refugee camp in Uganda.
Members of the ECCSS as well as other residents fled without their belongings. Looting throughout the city has been reported by news agencies.
Mathew, who has communicated with the ECCSS president, reported, “The good news in Malakal is that civilians are not killed though their properties are looted.”
As governments have sought to find a peaceful solution to conflict, churches also have called for hostilities to end. “The South Sudan Council of Churches (SSCC) of which the ECCSS is one of the free accredited members, condemned the ongoing violence and support the mediation efforts initiated by Eastern African Countries and western powers,” Mathew said in an email early today before news reports that Kiir had agreed to a truce. Machar had not responded as of this morning.
John and Letha Kerl, regional coordinators for Europe, Africa, and South Sudan, said,
“The Evangelical Covenant Church and Covenant World Mission wishes to express our deep concern and consternation over the events in South Sudan. The senseless killing of so many and the instability this has brought to South Sudan has disturbed us deeply.
“We want to assure those of the Evangelical Covenant Church of South Sudan of our fervent prayers for them and for South Sudan during these difficult days. We express our condolences over the loss of life and the ensuing chaos of these recent events. We pray that this conflict can quickly be resolved and that peace and stability will return for all South Sudanese.”
Mathew said this morning that he was grateful for the outpouring of support he has received: “The ECCSS Administration Office and the entire people of South Sudan are delighted with your compassionate prayers for peace and tranquility in the youngest nation of the world. We stand by with our Lord and believe that the current crisis in our country will come to an end through your powerful prayers and well wishes for the people of South Sudan.”