Police in the Jonglei State capital, Bor have confirmed the expulsion of two Episcopal Church of South Sudan (ECSS) bishops from the state over the weekend, citing security concerns.
Bishop Gabriel Kuc of ECSS Kongoor Diocese and his Wangolei Diocese colleague Bishop Zechariah Manyyok Biar arrived Bor Saturday morning, prompting a chaotic scene at the Bor airport as security apparatus tried to expel the two bishops.
Speaking to Radio Tamazuj Tuesday, Lt. Colonel John Mawut Ngang, the state police spokesperson, said they had to expel the two bishops Saturday because they defied a government order banning any ECSS bishop from going to Jonglei until the ongoing leadership dispute is resolved, saying their presence would incite violence among the faithful.
ECSS in Jonglei split into two in August last year when Primate Justin Badi Arama defrocked Bishop Ruben Akurdit of the Jonglei internal province over alleged canonical disobedience. Bishop Akurdit condemned his defrocking as unprocedural and has since filed a lawsuit at a Juba high court to have Badi’s order overturned.
Hearings into the case are still ongoing.
“After fighting at a church in Bor in which several people were injured, it was resolved that no bishop comes to Bor until they resolved their problem. But last weekend, two bishops defied the order and came to Bor. So, as police, we had to intervene because as they arrived, two groups gathered. One to welcome the bishops and the other to oppose,” Mawut explained.
The police officer however pointed out that Bor is calm despite the incident.
“There is no problem now. But on Saturday, there was a commotion because the two clergymen were resistant but they were later convinced by Primate Badi, and in the evening, we escorted them to Juba,” he added.
Bishop Zechariah Manyyok Biar of Wangolei Diocese denied defying any order. He said they were in Bor for pastoral services when they were met with opposition at the airport.
“As we disembarked the plane at the airport, we were attacked by a group who were incited by Akurdit. Then security people came and said we should go back to the aircraft. We refused. We said there was no reason to go back to Juba. Juba is not our home. We are from Bor,” he stressed.
The clergymen condemned Saturday’s incident and accused the state authorities of siding with the ECSS faction led by Ruben Akurdit.
Maluak Philip, the information secretary for the ECSS-Akurdit faction, denied Akurdit's involvement in the airport chaos but instead accused the expelled bishops of intending to incite violence by traveling to Bor despite a government ban.
Bol Deng Bol, an activist in Bor, said last week’s incident was embarrassing to the Christian community, and called on the national government to urgently intervene, saying the longstanding ECSS crisis pose danger to Jonglei communities.
The row between Bishop Ruben Akurdit Ngong of the ECSS Jonglei Internal Province and ECSS Primate Justin Badi Arama began early last year when Akurdit defied his suspension, prompted by the creation of three dioceses and consecration of three bishops without prior permission from the primate.
Source: Radio Tamazuj