Nothing Wrong With Prayer But Keep Your Eyes Peeled: How Peace Will Come to South Sudan
November 20, 2019
“When the Europeans Came to Africa, they had the Bible and we had the land. They told us to pray with our eyes closed. When we opened our eyes, they had the land and we the Bible”, Jomo Kenyatta.
We know Jomo Kenyatta was one of prominent pro-independence African leaders. However, I am not quoting him here to invoke the bitter memories of Africans’ struggles to rid themselves of European colonization in the 20th century. That’s not the objective here.
Still, I can see a parallel in the current political wrangling in South Sudan where the Church and Church leaders, including unfortunately the Pope, have been drawn into the midst of the heated conversation around finding a solution to the now 6-year conflict. It is my firm belief that this new found love to invite the Church to be part of the efforts to realize peace in the country is nothing but an alternative strategy in the long drive by a certain group of South Sudanese politicians to achieve victory by all means for their agenda, an agenda largely motivated by a hunger and thirst to steal others’ lands and to permit ethnic domination in the world’s youngest nation. The clearest expression of this view came in April this year when, out of the blue, the SPLM-IG organized a prayer for peace in South Sudan at the Vatican led by the Pope and attended only by a carefully selected group of political figures as if they were the only leaders in that country. The Church is supposed to be an inclusive, embracing and welcoming safe place for everyone who could make it to pray, reflect and meditate for peace, especially if the Vatican prayer was organized to ask God’s blessing for peace, reconciliation and compromise in a war-torn nation like South Sudan. That the prayer was limited to a selected type of leaders, as opposed to all the leaders who negotiated and signed the peace agreement, strongly suggests the intention was to pray for the SPLM-IG to maintain the status quo, including its unlawful grab of other communities’ lands using state power.
Despite untiring efforts by the land grab and ethnic domination crusaders to hide their real intentions, it is not rockets science for the suspecting mind to see why even the highest Church leader on the planet, the Pope, and lately Nigerian “Prophet”, TB Joshua are being courted to inject their supposedly God-mediated prayers and prophesies into the peace process. These attempts by the SPLM-IG are, indeed, cheap tactics that not even the political idiot would fail to spot for what they are. Yet it is concerning and, frankly, disappointing, how the Pope and Prophet TB Joshua are allowing themselves to be used in this way, to be led like sheep to achieve political ambitions of one side to the conflict in South Sudan.
Religion and politics subscribe to different objectives and goals. The separation of the Church from politics was debated and settled a long time ago for a reason: to leave worldly political affairs for politicians to sort them out. It is the same reason that the Church and its leaders need to stay away from politics today. If the conflict in South Sudan were caused by politicians who wanted to use their political authority to deny others their rights and to favor one ethnic group leadership over others, this problem can and should be solved by politicians, not by the Pope or prophet TB Joshua whose messaging has so far been simply over-generalizing that “south Sudanese leaders” should compromise, when the truth is that it is only one party that is uncompromising. The starkest demonstration that simply a prayer by the Pope or prophesy by Prophet TB Joschua won’t be the Moses’ magical stick hoped by the SPLM-IG or anyone else to finally settle the conflict in South Sudan is illustrated by the fact that the “leaders” that participated in the Pope-led prayer are still as far apart in their positions on peace as ever despite the heart- touching scene of the Pope kneeling in front of them and kissing their feet.
For peace to come to come to South Sudan, there is an agreement, the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan, signed by the parties to the conflict in September 2018. Everybody that is signatory to that agreement needs to respect and stick to it if peace is to become a reality. All the parties that signed it should respect it. If the conflict in South Sudan is politically motivated, it can only either be solved by the politicians or by the Pope, TB Joshua or other Church leadership engaging all the leaders, not just a selected group of leaders. We cannot just generalize and ask the leaders to compromise when it is one leader that is not compromising. Actually, if there fairness and justice in the world, be it religious or God’s justice, the Pope and prophet TB Joshua need to talk to the side of the agreement that everyone knows is the one standing in the way of peace and that is none other than the SPLM-IG. Otherwise, why do we have the peace agreement in the first place?
Don’t get me wrong here, I know that the Church, the Pope, Prophet TB Joshua and the priests and the clergy all have good intentions to bringing peace to the country. But everyone needs to remember that there is a peace agreement with clear provisions on how peace can practically come about. For any mediation to be effective, whether mediation by the Pope, Prophet TB Joshua, IGAD or otherwise, it needs to be assertive and bold enough to point a finger at the party that is the obstacle and ask them to do their part under the peace deal. The SPLM-IG must be made accountable for failure to honor their commitments under the agreement. To paint all the leaders with the same broad brush when we know which party is in violation of the agreement is the definition of injustice.
Let the Pope, Prophet TB Joshua or any other Church leader not be used in the unholy tribal ambition to grab others’ lands in South Sudan.
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