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South Sudan: 23 killed, 20 others wounded as gunmen storm church compound

Persecution of Christians in South Sudan has been rare so far, but threatens to increase, as there are numerous forces in the region where it is located that have targeted Christians in the recent past. South Sudan became an independent country in 2011. It is about 60% Christian, mostly Roman Catholic and Anglican. Unfortunately, the persecution of Christians threatens to become a feature even of this new state, as this attack indicates.

By grace of God and the blessings of His Beatitude Theodore II, the Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa, Metropolitan Narkissos (Gammoh) of Nubia founded the first Orthodox Christian missionary center in South Sudan in 2015. See details here.

May Almighty God bless South Sudan and turn the hearts of its people to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

For previous ChristianPersecution.com coverage of the persecution of Christians in Sudan, from which South Sudan gained its independence, see here.

“Gunmen kill, wound dozens at South Sudan church, jeopardizing peace talks,” Religion Unplugged, July 30, 2020:

At least 23 people were killed this week and 20 others were wounded after unidentified gunmen stormed an Anglican church compound in South Sudan’s Anglican Diocese of Athooch, in Jonglei State. The assailants took six children as hostages, Anglican Bishop Moses Anur Ayom told Religion Unplugged.

The gunmen attacked Makol Chuei village from two directions, killing the cathedral’s deacon and at least 14 women and children who had sought refuge in the church compound by vandalizing the church, destroying their worship instruments and then setting the area ablaze along with the entire village.

“After killing people in the church, the gunmen went to the homestead village and killed people there,” Bishop Ayom said. “The gunmen burned down the whole village in Makol Chuei. Thus far, we have six people who are missing and we are not sure whether they are alive or dead. In addition, six children were also abducted.”

About 90% of Jonglei State’s population are Christian, but they are from many different ethnic tribes. Communal violence has intensified in the state, recently killing hundreds of civilians and creating humanitarian emergencies in the region. Meanwhile, political leaders are meeting in the South Sudan capital of Juba to implement the revitalized peace agreement designed to end the six-year civil war pitting President Salva Kiir Mayardit against opposition leader, First Vice President Riek Machar Teny.

The country’s vice president, James Wani Igga, visited Jonglei earlier in July and kneeled in front of the warring communities, begging them to embrace a peaceful means of resolving differences.

There have been ongoing clashes between the Nuer, Dinka and Murle tribes in Jonglei since before the creation of the Pibor Administrative Area in 2014. In mid-May, gunmen armed with machine guns attacked villages in Jonglei, killing hundreds of people, including a number of aid workers. Thousands of civilians were displaced. Several peace activists have accused the government of doing little to quell the cycle of tribal conflicts in the region.

Participants at the recent peace conference in Jonglei that brought together traditional elders and government officials headed by Igga recommended the creation of a buffer zone and deployment of neutral armed forces to curtail the counter attacks between the youth from Jonglei and the Pibor Administrative Area.

Rampant cattle raiding, child abduction, and conflict over grazing land have been blamed for the unrest in Jonglei. However, Bishop Ayom believes the latest killing of women and children in the church compound is politically motivated.

“The only solution to the communal conflict is to engage the youth, elders, and church leaders and bring them together for peace dialogue,” Ayom said.

Another attack in Jalle village killed an Anglican archdeacon, Jacob Amanjok, along with three pastors.

“There is no need of killing the pastors,” Ayom said. “I am not happy about this issue of killing and destroying churches. I would like to appeal to the international community to intervene. As a church leader, I forgive the gunmen. The Bible says we have to forgive those who do wrong to us.”…

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