The transitional constitution stipulates separation of religion and state, prohibits religious discrimination, and provides religious groups freedom to worship and assemble, organize themselves, teach, own property, receive financial contributions, communicate and issue publications on religious matters, and establish charitable institutions. In connection with the continuing civil conflict, government and opposition forces reportedly engaged in killings of religious workers, including the killing of five churchgoers by government forces in January. On November 11, army and local police in Tonj State reportedly arrested and physically mistreated at least 150 members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The members were released on November 18 after Tonj State Governor Akech Tong Aleu intervened. On March 13, opposition forces in Unity State temporarily detained eight religious aid workers affiliated with Samaritan’s Purse, a U.S.-based, nondenominational evangelical Christian relief organization. In connection with the civil conflict, government and opposition forces continued to loot and burn down churches and religious centers, including the Catholic diocesan pastoral center in Lutaya, which was burned by the army in January. Religious leaders reported the government shut down some Catholic radio programs in its efforts to censor media programs critical of the government.
St. Mary’s Cathedral in Wau sheltered more than 10,000 residents fleeing intense fighting in the town in April. Christian and Muslim religious leaders regularly communicated and coordinated activities, particularly in connection with peacebuilding and humanitarian aid. The South Sudan Council of Churches (SSCC) issued a statement in August condemning continued violence in the country and emphasized a return to the “path of dialogue.”
U.S. embassy officials met with Advisor on Islamic Affairs Sheikh Juma Saaed Ali in November to discuss the Muslim community’s role, challenges, and outreach in the country’s peacebuilding process. The U.S. Ambassador, Charge d’Affaires, and embassy representatives promoted religious freedom through discussions and outreach with religious leaders and civil society organizations.