Emmanuel Jieng [Dinka] Parish church service erupted into violent protest on Sunday among its members, forcing the pastor in charge of the church to declare his resignation from the church leadership.
Emmanuel Jieng [Dinka] church, located at Hai Cinema in the South Sudan’s national capital, Juba, is predominantly of Dinka Bor membership.
Pastor Joseph Makeer Achiek, according to media reports and social media comments, resigned on Sunday, 29 May, after several protesters among his church members demanded his resignation from the church leadership for inviting the First Vice President, Riek Machar, to attend the ethnic Dinka Bor church last Sunday.
The appearance of Machar, a Nuer by ethnicity, where he preached peace and reconciliation among the people of South Sudan, stunned some of the church members who walked out in protest last week.
However, on Sunday, seven days later, some of the members decided to not allow the pastor in charge, who invited Machar last week, to continue leading the church, accusing him of inviting an enemy to the church.
Angry protesters, allegedly agitated by some politicians matched to the podium inside the Emmanuel Jieng Parish and interrupted the church secretary of information while announcing the routine weekly church reports on Sunday.
An eyewitness reportedly said an unidentified protester started the match to the podium with a banner banner bearing the names of Dinka army Generals who were killed by opposition forces of Machar during the 21 years of the civil war which ended in August 2015.
The names the protesters displayed inside the church for the members to see included late Gen. Kuol Malith Reech, late Gen. Abraham Jongroor Deng and late Gen. Ajak Yek Alier who were killed in the conflict between 2013 and 2014 while commanding government troops against Machar’s forces.
When the church leadership attempted to stop the man from displaying the dead Generals, other protesters stoop up in support of his action. The situation forced majority of the members of the congregation to walk out, while others tried to calm down the situation.
Security personnel had to be called in by the church leaders and arrested the protesters.
While army generals and politicians who attended the church service remained seated, the church leadership tried to calm the situation to prevent people from leaving.
Pastor Achiek then decided to announce his resignation from leading the church leadership after seeing the unbelievable situation.
The row inside the Dinka church occurred last Sunday when the First Vice President, Machar, addressed the church, encouraging their members to preach peace and reconciliation among the people of the world’s youngest country and to support the implementation of the peace agreement.
It was the fourth church in four weeks which Machar visited and shared prayers with since his return to Juba on 27 April, 2016.
On Sunday, May 29, Machar also visited a fifth church, St Thomas Parish of Munuki area, in his fifth Sunday in Juba, where he also called on the congregation to embrace reconciliation and forgiveness among the divided people of South Sudan.
His press secretary, James Gatdet Dak, said that he was welcomed at the church, predominantly of Equatorians.
“His [Machar’s] message about reconciliation and forgiveness was well received by the members and leadership at St Thomas Parish,” Dak told Sudan Tribune on Sunday.