Remarks as Prepared for Delivery for a Reception to Honor Religious Leaders in South Sudan

By David Renz, U.S. Chargé d’Affaires, a.i.

Juba, South Sudan; September 22, 2021

Welcome everyone.

We have a broad and inclusive group represented here today that reflects the diversity of religious expression in South Sudan.  In the few minutes I’ve had to speak with several of you, I’ve been deeply impressed by your commitment to the people of South Sudan, especially those who are particularly vulnerable.

I’m also impressed, but not surprised, by your work to promote a peaceful, just, and prosperous South Sudan.  In this our goals are closely aligned.

And I want to acknowledge the sacrifice of members of the religious community.  We are all saddened, indeed outraged, by heinous acts of violence against religious and lay humanitarian workers who seek only to serve those in need.  We will continue to press the government to hold those responsible to account.

I’ve been here but a month.  Yet already I see the difficult challenges of the communities you minister to.  Conflict continues to flair, displacing tens of thousands of people.  Floods ravage farmland and pastures.

The United States, through USAID and other agencies, is providing lifesaving food and other items to support those in deepest need.  And our programs work to create sustainable solutions.  We promote community skills to manage conflict peacefully, help farmers increase yields and access markets, and address unique needs of pastoralists.  We are investing in the people of South Sudan, improving healthcare and access to education.  All of our programs pay particular attention to the disproportionate challenges faced by women and girls.

In the face of these challenges, religion also plays a fundamental role in South Sudan.  As a means to resolve conflicts and implement measures to support peace, the importance of religious organizations and leaders including yourselves is critical to the present and future stability and wellbeing of South Sudan.  Many of the organizations represented here tonight support education and skills development.

America has a long tradition of working with religious leaders and faith-based organizations in peacebuilding initiatives in South Sudan. Over the coming year, we will be looking to expand this cooperation to overcome conflicts that are impeding progress in the development of this young nation.

Most importantly, let me leave you with this thought.  Even the smallest efforts matter.

A friend of mine was once asked why she was a Peace Corps volunteer.  Why do it, she was asked, did she think she could change the world?

No, she replied, just my little corner of it.

If we all change our little corners, together we can change the world.

Thank you for your partnership.

Now, I would like to call upon Monseigneur Ionuţ Paul Strejac, the Chargé d’Affaires at the Embassy of the Vatican, to say a few words of blessing.

Later in the evening we will hear from the Honorable Sheikh Abdullah Barag for a perspective from the Muslim faith.

Thanks again for coming and I look forward to talking with each of you.