JUBA, Jan 30 – The Archbishop of Canterbury, the leader of the world’s Anglicans, on Thursday urged the warring sides in South Sudan to end the fighting in which thousands have been slaughtered.
In Juba as part of a four-nation Africa tour, Justin Welby told worshippers: “In a world where everyone is used to killing, I ask you to call on all your courage and faith, to remember your suffering, to remember those who have been killed … but to pray that you may love your enemies.”
Thousands have been killed in the fighting pitting forces loyal to President Salva Kiir – who held with talks with Welby on Thursday – against a loose coalition of army defectors and ethnic militia nominally headed by sacked vice president Riek Machar, a seasoned guerrilla fighter.
The fighting has seen waves of brutal revenge attacks, with the United Nations and rights workers reporting horrific atrocities committed by both sides.
“I’ve heard particularly bad news of attacks …. what is important is that … the facts of this are established in a way that no one can deny, and that we understand fully, and lessons are learned,” Welby said. “There must be no impunity.”
Both sides implemented a ceasefire last Friday, but combat has only eased, not ended.
In separate comments coinciding with his Africa visit, Welby also wrote to the presidents of Nigeria and Uganda warning against the “victimisation or diminishment” of homosexuals.
The open letter, written jointly with the Uganda-born archbishop of York, John Sentamu, was also sent to all the primates, or chief bishops, of all the churches that make up the Anglican Communion.
Welby is the leader of the world’s 80 million Anglicans as spiritual head of the Church of England, the communion’s mother church.
Welby and Sentamu – the CofE’s archbishops – noted that they have been asked about their views on new legislation in several countries that penalise gay people.
They recalled a statement agreed by the communion in 2005 which says that “the victimisation or diminishment of human beings whose affections happen to be ordered towards people of the same sex is anathema to us”.
It continues: “We assure homosexual people that they are children of God, loved and valued by Him and deserving the best we can give – pastoral care and friendship.”
In their letter, Sentamu and Welby write: “We hope that the pastoral care and friendship that the communique described is accepted and acted upon in the name of the Lord Jesus.
“We call upon the leaders of churches in such places to demonstrate the love of Christ.”
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan signed off a law earlier this month banning same-sex marriage and civil unions, and making public shows of affection between homosexuals illegal.
Meanwhile in Uganda, where homophobia is widespread, President Yoweri Museveni refused to approve a bill this month that would have seen homosexuals jailed for life but branded them “sick”.