Father Joseph Otto of Magwi, South Sudan holds mass every day, even if no one attends. If only all of South Sudan, or everywhere for that matter, could hear him when he reads "Blessed are the peacemakers" from the Gospel of Matthew in the Bible. For what South Sudan needs more than anything is apostles of peace.
Father Joseph Otto of St. Theresa Parish in Magwi, South Sudan (Photo by Karen Kasmauski for Catholic Relief Services)
Conflict threatens South Sudan a year after it gained independence. There is fighting with its northern neighbor Sudan, which is causing a major humanitarian emergency with hundreds of thousands of refugees. The UN World Food Programme (WFP) is airlifting food to the displaced, including Plumpy'Sup to prevent the wasting of thousands of infants.
There is also internal conflict. In Jonglei, the largest state in South Sudan, 24 soldiers were killed last month in attacks from an insurgent group.
The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) says it is "particularly concerned by the apparent emergence in Jonglei of an armed insurgency group linked to the militia leader David Yau Yau, which is believed to be acting in concert with groups of armed youths who have evaded the civilian disarmament operation in the state."
Last year fighting between the Lou Nuer and Murle tribes escalated. People were killed or kidnapped, homes burned to the ground, and thousands displaced.
Displaced people in Pibor, Jonglei state (OCHA photo)
This year the fledgling government began a major peace and disarmament initiative. Hilde F. Johnson, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General to South Sudan, says, “The widespread possession, and use, of illegal weapons by the communities and the proliferation of small arms constitutes a significant threat to peace and security in South Sudan, and is seriously exacerbating inter-communal violence in Jonglei...A pro-active reconciliation process and peaceful disarmament is the only way forward to maintain peace and security for the people of the area."
Will disarmament of rival tribes occur throughout South Sudan? (United Nations photo)