H.E. Festus Mogae, Chairman of JMEC Christmas Radio Message to the People of South Sudan. 25th December, 2017
Good people of South Sudan,
I read recently an inspiring story about a little town in Unity State. The town is called Ganyeil. It is impoverished, very hard to access, surrounded by swampland and constantly under threat of flooding and the loss of their invaluable harvest.
But here, at the very centre of a country torn apart by civil conflict, protected by the natural defence of the marshes, lies an oasis of peace; an island of tranquillity. A population of forty thousand residents live and subsist happily together with what little they have.
What is particularly remarkable about Ganyeil, however, is that it is an openly inter-ethnic community. People freely trade, socialise and indeed marry without concern for their background or origin. It is reported that, despite its isolation, or perhaps because of it, people from all backgrounds move there to enjoy a life free from violence and oppression.
Ganyeil stands as a beacon of hope and inspiration. Protected and removed from war, violence and conflict, South Sudanese people live together as normally as any others. At the grass roots of community life, South Sudan is a peaceful, inclusive, considerate and tolerant society.
Psalm 133 reads, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity. It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, running down on the collar of his robes. For then the Lord has commanded the blessing, ‘life forevermore’.”
At Christmas time, millions of people around the world revisit and re-examine their faith. We return each year to the same simple message of the gospel that underpins our lives
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John, Chapter 3, Verse 16.
As so it is here in South Sudan, that this Christmas we are revisiting and revitalising the peace process that began two and half years ago but which has thus far delivered so little.
In the space of these two years since the signing of the Peace Agreement, the number of refugees, violently displaced and sheltering in neighbouring countries, has doubled. I need no other statistic to underline the tragedy that has unfolded here.
But as I promised you this time last year, I have worked tirelessly to help South Sudan to implement the Peace Agreement and sustain a pathway to peaceful political cooperation.
In March of this year, I proposed and led a One Voice initiative designed to bring regional and international leaders and stakeholders together and present a unified call to end the fighting, ensure humanitarian support without hindrance and restore inclusive governance.
In June of this year we recommended to IGAD that they should launch the revitalisation process – to restore energy, prominence and commitment to the implementation of the Peace Agreement. Huge efforts have been made by IGAD and the region to bring the leaders of South Sudan around the table and to navigate that pathway to peace.
The High Level Revitalisation Forum is now underway. Dialogue has returned to South Sudan. It will take time but we will not relent until we have restored our faith in the peaceful resolution of our differences.
But like the people of Ganyeil, I urge you all to play your part in this peace revitalisation. Each and every one of us can be the change we seek through our daily words and actions.
We can reject violence each and every day; we can reconcile with our neighbours and within our communities; we can support each other and work together.
The first two years of your nationhood showed you all exactly what is possible, economically and socially. South Sudan is a beautiful and bountiful country blessed by the presence of the Nile and with unimaginable potential and prospects enough for you all. Only belligerence stands between you and a prosperous, peaceful future.
I leave you with a passage from St John’s first Epistle, Chapter 3, verses 16 – 18:
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”
As we celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace again this Christmas Day, I urge each of you to re-light a candle of peace in your homes. Allow that candle to burn; revitalise your faith; pledge a message of peace to your neighbour; and bless 2018 with a renewed spirit of forgiveness, reconciliation, and healing.
I wish you all a happy Christmas and I wish us all a very peaceful new year.
God bless us all in the relentless pursuit of peace.