According to a recent report, the Catholic Church has just helped with brokering a major peace deal in South Sudan, helping to bring under control a nation torn by violence since its establishment in 2011.
South Sudan has been in almost constant civil war since it gained its independence in 2011. This civil war has been between the president, Salva Kiir, and his former vice President, Reik Machar. With all of the fighting that has taken place over the past near decade, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and many more displaced. This is despite the two opposing groups having come to several peace agreements in the past.
However, there is currently hope that peace might return to the war torn nation. The Vatican alongside others, hosted the two groups in Rome for a peace building meeting. During this meeting, the two were able to sign a peace deal that went into effect just yesterday. The hope for this peace deal is based on the backing of the Pope and the Catholic Church, who hold a lot of sway in South Sudan. Also, many of the opposition leaders who had been excluded from or were unwilling to sign the previous deals are signed onto this newest one.
The leaders said that they signed this newest agreement because they were “humbled by the relentless spiritual and moral appeal for peace, reconciliation and fraternity by Pope Francis” and other religious leaders. Whether this relentless appeal will hold more sway than previous appeals and attempts is still to be seen. We pray that South Sudan can find peace and unity even after these years of hatred and violence. (source)
Years ago, I spoke with a man, a Protestant minister, who is from South Sudan. He married a white lady from Vermont and the two have lived in the US ever since and have a dozen children together. This minister was heavily involved in peace efforts in South Sudan as well as humanitarian outreach and fundraising, and twice a year he and his whole family would go to South Sudan to live and work. Sometimes, they would stay for a half a year working.
I remember when I spoke with him, he told me that he appreciated the efforts of the Catholic Church in his country, because he said that monastic organizations operating in the Church were helping not only with peace and making deals with Northern Sudan, but also with providing arms to the South Sudanese rebels to fight the Muslims, because he said there was so much violence coming from Janjaweed soldiers.
I bring this story up because this is not the only example of the Church becoming involved in politics, and not for a selfish end, but because of moral right. For example, in the 1970s the coffee farms of Kenya were a creation of the Spiritan Brothers, a monastic order from Ireland, to help the Africans take control over their economy and lift up their quality of life, which the coffee trade has done significantly, making Kenyan coffee some of the most sought-after in the world for quality and excellence. Whether it is human rights, fighting in conflicts, or anything in between, the Church, while she does not always succeed and has been known to sometimes make terrible decisions, nobody can deny that she does try to help people as she can because it is the moral thing to do.
Now ask yourself, what comparable efforts can one point to in a similar context regarding the Orthodox Churches outside of their own political and tribal interests directly connected to the nations they are in? Certainly there are some efforts, such as the Russian Orthodox missionary outreach to the native Alaskans, but not only are these efforts very small in comparison to the influence of the Church that it could potentially have, but almost always (including with Alaska) they are directly tied to the geopolitical and economic programs of their host country.
When was the last time that the Romanian Orthodox Church, the third largest by adherents, went to broker peace between nations in Asia or Africa? Where are the Russian Orthodox missionaries working in the Congo to help stop illegal mining operations from major corporations? Where are the Greek Orthodox brothers rescuing enslaved girls on in the brothels and on the street corners of Manila?
There are probably a few doing this, but I have not seen them. However, and clearly not out of any sort of boasting, it is not hard to find some Catholic mission, monastic order, or group of people seeking the good will of others doing this.
The primacy of St. Peter is proved by Sacred Scripture and the words of Christ Himself. But if one needs more proof, just look at the positive actions of the Churches- ignore the critical ones because all have plenty of those and while important are not as vital to the context -and see what one finds. There will be relief efforts among them all, but a lot of the work in the Eastern Orthodox will stay isolated in their own nation or those directly near them and related to national, political, or economic interests. The Catholic Church, to compare, will go all around the world to all people, and is not necessarily tied to nation, politics, economics, or tribe, but to the scriptural message that Christ gave Her because She is His Church, for if words are not enough in themselves than a man’s claims are proven by his deeds and also, the deeds that he chooses not to do and if he gives or chooses not to provide an explanation.