Bishop Hiiboro’s speech at the signing of the Peace & Reconciliation Agreement
Saturday 02.04 2016
Your Excellency Presidential Advisor on Security Affairs – Tut Gatluak, and all the delegation team with you,
Your Excellency Governor of Gbudue State, Major General Patrick Zamoi and civil leadership working with you,
Bishop Munde of Yambio ECS diocese, Bishop Samuel Peni of ECS Nzara diocese and all other religious Leaders,
Hon. Victor Kpiawandu Edward, Head of the National Government Delegation, with all you team to the Talks
Traditional Leaders, civil societies, Women and Youths Blocs,
National Security leadership and all the organized forces who sincerely helped us in this delicate national duty!
Ladies and Gentlemen,
First and foremost, I want to thank God for having given us this privileged to talk and create moment of Peace. God gave us South Sudan and created us after his own image and dignity. Hence, we must love and care for South Sudan to the best of our ability. This is where the church and Faith leaders find their raw material for seeking and building peace. This type of role is not always well understood by all!
I thank President Salva Kiir for his love for peace by having given keen attention of peace in greater Western Equatoria.
I thank the leadership of National Security for their kind collaboration and application of diplomatic peaceful means to conflict through dialogue!
Equally I want to thank the Governor of Gbudue State for high level commitment which has brought this day successful acceptable end! This is the first kind of peace deal to be realized in one of the 28 States! Be sure of our collaboration to make sure peace prevails forever!
“Peace” as Pope John Paul once commented “is the fruit of Solidarity”. As Christians, our own commitment to peace; to the healing of relationships and of memories, takes root in our experience of the solidarity of God, who has been born into our world. Pope Francis in his message for this year’s world peace day, reminds us, however, that indifference is one of the major challenges to peace. Nothing rubs salt into our wounds more than the feeling that nobody cares what is happening to us.
Our presence here is to encourage all of us the people of South Sudan and particularly Greater Western Equatoria to embrace peace, and return our country back to its glory.
We have followed keenly as Inter-Faith Council for Peace Initiatives for a very long time. It has never been easy journey but we kept focus because we believed in the totality and sacredness of life. W appeal very much for the protection of life and promoting it!
It is therefore with deep satisfaction that I, on behalf of the Inter-Faith Based Council for Peace Initiatives, commend the two parties, Government of the Republic of South Sudan and South Sudan National Republic to the talks for working in good faith to reach this compromised Agreement.
The agreement as it is, addresses most of the root causes of the crisis within the framework of the Preliminary Peace Agreement as roadmap signed on the 16th November 2015.
Our Christian Faith should inspire us in particular to redouble our efforts serve the common good. Our solidarity with one another and especially with those in the greatest need is an expression of who we are as the people of a merciful God. In a particular way this year, we Christians are called to be “merciful like the Father” and one of the characteristics of mercy is that we see the other person as someone like ourselves.
The Greater Western Equatoria aggrieved Youths’ crisis has proven to be a real test case for not only Western Equatoria, but also the rest of South Sudanese nation.
The crisis is of a complex and multi-faceted nature, involving security, political, identity, gender, humanitarian, socio-economic, cultural and environmental dimensions.
It has sapped the energies of both Western Equatorian and the region as a whole. Many of our citizens have lost their lives, properties lost, huge displacement, fear, mistrust, suspiciousness, trauma, etc,
After the signing of the agreement comes the arduous task of rebuilding our broken pieces, relationship, the fragile economy, social and political infrastructure of our states and the whole country.
I, therefore, call on all individuals or groups of Western Equatoria region and South Sudan society who are yet to embrace this agreement to do so in the interest of the peace, tranquility and development of our beloved country. We need to be patient and remain consistent and hopeful.
Western Equatoria will at this stage require enormous pastoral (Spiritual) political, financial and operational assistance for the implementation of the terms of the new peace agreement.
This will include early confidence-building measures, for the parties and communities in our states and also other affected regions of South Sudan.
I therefore, urge the UNIMISS, IGAD, AU, EU, and all other international partners and friends of South Sudan to intensify support and collaboration on the implementation of this agreement and also the August 2015, Compromised Peace Agreement mediated by IGAD which should embrace any useful agreement signed on this South Sudan soil!
Excellences, Ladies and Gentlemen,
As we mark this milestone of peace in Western Equatoria, we must also have a vision for a lasting and sustainable peace in the whole of South Sudan. This will involve the international community paying greater attention to the current Compromised Peace Agreement.
Let me reiterate the full commitment of Inter-Faith Council for Peace Initiatives to peace, holiness of life, respect for life, development, care for the weak, women, children, stability, Unity and also convey our full support for forgiveness works, reconciliation, healing and peace in our country!
This is our vision for Western Equatoria and South Sudan–and just as the Agreement we are signing today did not appear magically out of thin air, so too will our next steps have to involve the same trust and long-term thinking that brought us to this shared triumph. At this point, that we have to set up implementation mechanism for this agreement, to see to it that peace interest is highlighted and done!
We thus call on everyone to widen the avenues for trust and positive engagement; let us cast aside past prejudices, and contribute to the atmosphere of optimism that has, for the first time in a long while, become prevalent in Greater Western Equatoria. It should be the paramount concern of all people of goodwill to do their part: Let us exchange our bullets for ripening mango fruit, our cynicism for hope, our histories of sorrow for a future of harmony, peace, and prosperity.
What is being presented before us now is a path that can lead to a permanent change in the status quo in Greater Western Equatoria and South Sudan as whole! But as with all change, its success depends on our continuous vigilance. We must admit that there are those who enjoy the role of spoilers of peace!
The majority who deserve an opportunity to improve their lot in life, who stand to benefit from the onset of peace, stand at the crossroads with us: On one hand, will we be held back by an untenable status quo? Or, together, will we as an entire nation rise and prosper? To those who will not join us, I ask: Are you really that confident that we will have another singular opportunity like the one we have today April 2, 2016?
As believers, our identity must be the Christian vocation as witnesses of God’s mercy to others. This means showing God’s forgiveness, compassion, tenderness and love, to build a fairer Western Equatoria and South Sudan, where unity, reconciliation, dialogue, harmony and sharing take precedence over selfishness, hatred, rancour, vindictiveness and divisions.
As religious leaders we are focusing on the theme of mercy so that this can give special attention to the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy proclaimed by Pope Francis. We urge our faithful to take actions for peace and justice in South Sudan, as our country is increasingly - affected by poverty, misery, pessimism, injustice, vices such as impunity, corruption, fraud, extortion, etc!
South Sudan needs peace and it's up to us to build it, avoiding all acts of violence and conflicts that lead to war.
We are not in active politics but we concern ourselves with lives and dignity of the human person at every cost, that is the church’s madness!
What faith teaches about the dignity of the human person, about the sacredness of every human life, and about humanity's strengths and weaknesses helps us see more clearly the same truths that also come to us through the gift of human reason. At the center of these truths is respect for the dignity of every person. This is the core of Catholic moral and social teaching. Because we are people of both faith and reason, it is appropriate and necessary for us to bring this essential truth about human life and dignity to the public square.
We are called to practice Christ's commandment to "love one another" (Jn 13:34). We are also called to promote the well-being of all, to share our blessings with those most in need, to defend marriage, and to protect the lives and dignity of all, especially the weak, the vulnerable, the voiceless. In his first encyclical letter, Deus Caritas Est, Pope Benedict XVI explained that "charity must animate the entire lives of the lay faithful and therefore also their political activity, lived as 'social charity'" (no. 29).
May this also stand as a warning to those who wish to derail our path to a final, lasting peace—those who wish to sow divisiveness for self-interest, and those who continue to wield arms to pursue their own agendas: So many people have suffered for so long; so many of our stakeholders have worked so hard to arrive at this point. I will not let peace be snatched from my people again if I had all the powers in my hands to do so.
We have together as people of Western Equatoria exhibited tremendous trust and commitment, which has gotten us this far. Today, let us together commit to being more energetic advocates of this rightful path.
In the coming months and years, let us exert even greater effort into making the path of peace–more inclusive, inviting more to join this advocacy and to contribute to the peaceful and progressive future that we are envisioning.
If our goals as a nation are fulfilled, our brothers and sisters of this nation can all look forward to that one day in the not-so-distant future, when we will all sit back and enjoy a quiet sunset in South Sudan.—perhaps with the company of friends such as Hon. Tut Gatlauk, the presidential Advisor on Security Affairs, That day, we will look back to April 2, 2016, and allow ourselves a little pride. For now, more work needs to be done, and I look forward to that moment where we together must join our hands in building a peaceful, prosperous, and inclusive South Sudan with all of you.
May the Risen Lord bless you and keep you!
May the Risen Lord let his face shine on you and be gracious to you!
May the Risen Lord uncover his face to you and bring you peace!
Happy and Blessed Easter be yours Alleluia!