ACT Alliance—a global, faith-based relief and development agency of which the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is a partner—has applauded the ceasefire agreement for South Sudan signed Jan. 23, saying it is the first step toward reconciliation for the troubled country. In just one month, conflict in South Sudan has sparked a grave humanitarian crisis that has left many dead and more than half a million forced from their homes, of which 86,000 fled for shelter in neighboring countries, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA).

The fledgling nation erupted into violence last month after a political dispute between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar, who agreed to a ceasefire Jan. 23.

While the alliance acknowledged South Sudan would continue to need international assistance for a long time to come, ACT Alliance General Secretary John Nduna said the ceasefire was an important first step. 

“Leaders of both sides must now insist their forces lay down their weapons immediately and allow humanitarian organizations the chance to care for the wounded and those forced from their homes.

“We hold out hope that South Sudan can return to peace,” he continued. “Now is the time for peace, but it must be a peace built on reconciliation, healing and the inclusion of all parties if we are to overcome the damage this conflict has incurred. Women, churches, local leaders and civil society organizations need to take part.”

The on-going efforts of ACT member, All Africa Conference of Churches, the World Council of Churches and South Sudan Council of Churches to support church-led peace and reconciliation efforts nationally, regionally and internationally are crucial for a quick return to normality and sustained peace in the long-term. 

Other ACT Alliance members are in South Sudan offering shelter, food and other relief to people forced from their homes by the fighting, as well as working at reception points just over the borders in Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia, where they receive refugees after arduous journeys to safety.