Three faith-based development agencies have called on the UK Government to commit to financing the peace process in South Sudan on the eve of an unprecedented joint pilgrimage of His Holiness the Pope, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Moderator of the Church of Scotland.
The intervention coincides with new polling by Savanta, commissioned by Christian Aid, that reveals over half (53%) of the British public agree the UK should be a leader in providing humanitarian aid and peacebuilding in countries facing conflict such as South Sudan.
In an open letter to the Prime Minister, the leaders of Christian Aid, CAFOD and Tearfund warned of South Sudan’s growing hunger crisis with “some 7.7 million people – 54% of the population – already living with crisis-level food insecurity.”
South Sudan officially split from Sudan in 2011, but civil war erupted two years later, causing 400,000 deaths. There are 2.2 million internally displaced people in South Sudan and another 2.3 million have fled the country, according to the UN.
Despite the deteriorating situation, the UK aid budget for South Sudan was cut by 59% in 2021. According to the UK aid agencies, this resulted in cuts to critical peacebuilding and resilience work with communities.
With His Holiness the Pope, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Moderator of the Church of Scotland expected to make an appeal for peace, Christian Aid, CAFOD and Tearfund hope the visit will also put pressure on the UK Government to invest in “peacebuilding, conflict management and reconciliation” in South Sudan.
Patrick Watt, Christian Aid’s Chief Executive, said:
Hundreds of thousands of people have lost their lives to conflict, and violence continues to tear communities apart. In a sign of the ongoing violence, three aid workers have been killed within the last month alone.
With this unprecedented ecumenical pilgrimage, there is a real opportunity to shine a light on South Sudan and give hope to people in need in the region.
It is clear the British people agree the UK Government should recommit funding and provide diplomatic support to the fragile peace process. This must include investment in community level peacebuilding and reconciliation.”
Christine Allen, Director of CAFOD, said:
The people of South Sudan have suffered so much due to conflict and instability. But instead of being able to rely on the support of the UK, each year the Government has cut its funding.
Our aid budget should prioritise countries impacted by conflict, failure to do so just increases the risk of other humanitarian crises such as displacement, hunger and gender-based violence.
I hope the international community, including the UK, respond to the calls of Pope Francis and Archbishop Welby for peace, by stepping up and committing funding to support the peace process.
Nigel Harris, CEO of Tearfund, said:
We thank the UK Government for the significant role it has played so far bilaterally and as part of the Troika in supporting peacebuilding and humanitarian efforts in South Sudan.
Local churches and ecumenical church networks in South Sudan are one of the only trusted voices in South Sudan. In our experience of working in partnership with faith based groups and church leaders in South Sudan, we have seen the invaluable role that they are playing.
In solidarity with the global church leaders visiting South Sudan in February, we urge the UK to use its influence and resources to support the role of faith leaders in humanitarian and peacebuilding work in South Sudan.