WEA calls for peace in South Sudan this Christmas

(AP)

The World Evangelical Alliance has issued a statement to leaders in South Sudan, urging them to seek peace and reconciliation in the midst of extreme violence and political unrest.

Fighting erupted in the capital city of Juba last week following an attempted coup by soldiers loyal to President Salva Kiir's former deputy Riek Machar, who was removed from office in July after accusing Kiir of dictatorship.

The violence has since spread throughout South Sudan, and rebels supporting Mr Machar have taken control of major towns Bor and Bentiu in the north. Reports suggest that the country is splitting along ethnic lines, and the BBC has detailed new evidence of alleged mass ethnic killings between the Nuer and Dinka tribes.

"At a time when the world prepares to celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace, we call on the leaders and soldiers in South Sudan to honor Christ through an immediate ceasefire and opening of dialogue," said Dr Geoff Tunnicliffe, Secretary General of the WEA.

"Our hope and prayer is that the youngest nation in the world will become an example to others by heeding the call in Psalms to turn from evil and do good, to seek peace and pursue it."

The WEA is calling for the guarantee of free movement to UN, NGO and mission teams who seek to provide humanitarian assistance in the country, and are joining church leaders in South Sudan in asking for justice and reconciliation. The South Sudan Council of Churches wrote a letter to the government last week, asking it to protect its citizens and condemning the violence.

"We appeal to our political leaders to refrain from hate speeches that may incite and escalate the violence. We urge to initiate dialogues and resolve issues amicably," the letter reads.

"We are concerned about the reports of abuse, harassment and killing of individual citizens based on their ethnic affiliation...We condemn such acts of abuse and hope that no more human lives should be lost."

The official death toll is currently estimated to be 500, but aid agencies claim that the true figure is likely to be much higher. According to the BBC, 81,000 people have been displaced, about half of whom are seeking shelter at UN bases.

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