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May 1, 2017
Bishop rejects South Sudan president's day of prayer as a political move
A ditch filled with sewage and garbage in a street of South Sudan. Credit: John Wollwerth/Shutterstock.
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.- The call by South Sudan's president for a national day of prayer was met with derision by one of the country's bishops, who called it a “political prayer” and a mockery.

President Salva Kiir addressed South Sudan via state-owned media last week to announce a day of prayer on March 10. The country has been embroiled in civil war since December 2013, when Kiir accused his former deputy, Riek Machar, of attempting a coup. The war has been fought between their supporters, largely along ethnic lines, and peace agreements have been short-lived.

“I have been praying for South Sudan every day. This morning, I prayed for South Sudan. That prayer called by Salva Kiir; I will never and never understand. Unless they carry me as a corpse but I will never attend that prayer. It is a political prayer. It is a mockery,” Bishop Santo Loku Pio Doggale, Auxiliary Bishop of Juba, told Voice of America, according to the Sudan Tribune.

“Why should I go [to] pray where there is no holiness, where there is no forgiveness? It is a joke to hear the president of the country calling prayers while at the moment, the soldiers are hunting people across South Sudan.”

He cited the government's army's displacement of numerous people from their homes. “People are being thrown away from their ancestral land. There have been a lot of robbery of the resources of the people.”

Bishop Doggale also charged that Kiir, who is Catholic, “does not even come to church these days.”

Kiir's proposed national day of prayer precedes the March 15 launch of a three-day national dialogue.

“Our time … is now ripe to turn to God and ask him for forgiveness and blessings. We have not been that perfect and we need to submit ourselves to the Almighty through prayers,” Kiir said. “It should be the day we all pray to God and ask Him for forgiveness so that we start a new chapter in our relations as citizens of this nation.”

The national dialogue is being directed by Kiir. One of his spokesmen has said that Machar, the former vice-president, may attend once he has denounced violence. Kiir's direction of the dialogue has been criticized, given his role in the country's civil war.

In January 2016, Bishop Doggale told CNA that the government of South Sudan, as well as that of Sudan, puts political agendas over its people's interests.

“We have crossroads of displaced people in both countries suffering from the political elite who don’t take their people in heart,” he said.

The bishops of South Sudan recently called for dialogue between the country's warring factions, and charged that the forces of both sides are targeting civilians.

“Those who have the ability to make changes for the good of our people have not taken heed of our previous pastoral messages,” the said in their Feb. 23 message. “We need to see action, not just dialogue for the sake of dialogue.”

The bishops said the war has “no moral justification whatsoever,” and expressed concern that some government officials seem to be suspicious of the Church.