SSPDF tells Episcopal Church to back off from its religious affairs
By James Atem Kuir
The South Sudan People’s Defense Forces (SSPDF) has warned the Episcopal Church of South Sudan (ECSS) against interfering in the affairs of itsspiritual unit, the SSPDF Chaplain and threatened to close down churches belonging to the latter located within the army barracks.
In a letter written on October 26, 2021 and addressed to the head of the Anglican communion in the country, Archbishop Justin Badi Arama- SSPDFActing Commander of Ground Force, Major General AtenyMayenJokAlier – told the senior spiritual leader to “distance” himself from the activities of the army chaplain and further warned SSDPF personnel partaking in the “confusion” of maximum prison sentence through the military justice.
“I have learned of your interference in the SSPDF chaplain unit… the churches built in the barracks, training centers and military colleges were initially built from the former SPLA now SSPDF, the director for Religious Affairs knows this,” read in part the letter obtained by Juba Monitor.
“I therefore request you to distance yourself from the activities of Chaplain and any SSPDF personnel that are involved in this confusion will face maximum sentence through the military justice. And if you continue to confuse the situation then SSPDF will order the closure of all the churches because we don’t want confusion within the army,”the letter said without specifying who was involved in the confusion or how itcame about.
The letter also made no mention of the churches affected by the so called confusion.
SSPDF Chaplain Unit is the umbrella of all denominations under the Christian faith in the national army first established in 1997 in the then Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) now known as the SSDPF.
ECSS is said to be the largest Christian denomination in the army after the Catholic faith. Other faith including the Islamic Religion also operates under the chaplain unit.
There are several churches located within army barracks in Juba
However, in an interview with Juba Monitor yesterday, the ECSSheadquarters admitted to have seen the letter but said it could not respond to the document that had not reached them through official means.
“I got the letter but we are still waiting [for the army to submit it to us officially]…we cannot respond to it now until we ascertain the letter come from the army. But up now we are still waiting,” said Manyang Gabriel Kon, communication officer at the ECSS headquarters.