On May 15, Sister Veronika Rackova, a Slovakian missionary working as a doctor at the St. Bakhita’s Medical Center in the southern town of Yei, was shot in the stomach while driving an ambulance with a patient. According to news sources, she died from her wounds after being airlifted to Kenya for surgery. Members of the military reportedly shot her at a checkpoint. Government authorities arrested three soldiers in connection with the shooting, the motive for which remained unclear.
Media sources reported some religious institutions were looted as government and opposition forces continued fighting throughout the country, and as criminality increased. For example, in late October media sources reported armed men wearing military uniforms forcibly entered the Good Shepherd Peace Center, established by the Catholic Church to provide a place for peacebuilding and trauma healing, and robbed religious workers at gunpoint.
The Committee for National Healing, Peace and Reconciliation, an interreligious body formed by President Salva Kiir Mayardit in April 2013 with the support of donor funds, closed during the year in anticipation that it would be merged into the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The Commission is envisaged in the August 2015 Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan (the peace agreement). At year’s-end, a Truth and Reconciliation Commission had not yet been established.
Both a Christian representative and a Muslim representative read prayers at most official events, with the government often providing translation from English to Arabic.
Several religious groups were represented in government positions. President Kiir, a Catholic, employed a high-level advisor on religious affairs, Tahir Bior Ajak, a leader of the Islamic community in the country. Additional Muslim representation in government included at least one governor and 14 members of the 400-member Transitional National Legislative Assembly (TNLA). There are no reserved seats for religious groups in the TNLA; however, all principal religious groups were represented.
Although not mandated by the government, religious education was generally included in public secondary school and university curricula. Theoretically, students could attend either a Christian or an Islamic course, and those with no religious affiliation could choose between the two courses. Because of resource constraints, however, some schools only offered education in one course. Christian and Muslim private religious schools set their own religious curriculum without government interference.
Although the Ministry for Humanitarian Affairs had not released information regarding new registration policies, no religious groups reported problems with registering or with operating as an unregistered religious group.