Kenneth Duku (right), a South Sudan Baptist pastor, visits the head teacher of Ebenezer Baptist Primary School in Kajo-Keji (second from right) and his family in a Ugandan refugee camp. (Photo provided by Edward Dima)
Baptist and Catholic leaders have addressed the United Nations' Feb. 20 formal declaration of famine in South Sudan.
The South Sudan Catholic Bishops' Secretariat issued a pastoral letter on Feb. 23 emphasizing that the ongoing civil war, which has displaced millions and caused the current famine, has "no moral justification whatsoever."
Edward Dima, pastor of First Baptist Church in Kajo-Keji and president of the Baptist Convention of South Sudan, has been in regular contact with EthicsDaily.com, sharing on-the-ground insight about the conflict and Baptist humanitarian aid initiatives.
"Finally, the U.N. has decided to declare famine in South Sudan," he told EthicsDaily.com. "One thing is to announce it, but the other thing is how to deliver the relief and will the government forces allow the delivery of the supplies."
Pope Francis addressed the crisis on Feb. 22 and offered a similar sentiment: "It is more necessary than ever that all commit not to stop at making statements, but also to provide concrete food aid and to allow it to reach suffering populations."
Both Dima and the bishops noted government complicity in the crises plaguing the African nation.
"The government is responsible for this catastrophe," Dima stated. "They refused the U.N. agencies to deliver relief to those areas affected by famine. [Last] week alone, the government in Yei river state refused to allow NGOs (nongovernmental organizations) to deliver food to malnourished children outside Yei town."
He reported also that internally displaced persons (IDPs) in a camp near Kajo-Keji have not received outside food supplies since it was formed and "many have died and many are yet to die."
The bishops called the famine "man-made" and expressed concern that "much of the violence is being perpetrated by government and opposition forces against civilians."
They committed to work for peace via regular meetings with all involved parties "with the message that we need to see action, not just dialogue for the sake of dialogue."
First Baptist Kajo-Keji - which has been meeting with military leaders to address abuses as well as providing aid to IDPs in South Sudan and refugees in Uganda - "is now set to leave the country ... with hundreds of church members scattered in ... refugee camps in north Uganda," Dima shared.
"We tried to support [those in need] and exhausted [our resources], and there is nothing we can do [but] seek the face of God for his intervention," he added. "We are appealing to our brethren to pray and support us in this critical situation."
Editor's note: Pictures of Baptist humanitarian aid work among internally displaced persons in South Sudan and refugees in Uganda are available here.