SOUTH SUDAN: A leader of the Adventist Protestant Christian denomination, also known as the Seventh-day Adventist Church (SDA), has admitted to burning traditional shrines in Gogrial East County of Warrap State but said it was done at the request of believers.
A Seventh-day Adventist Church was last Thursday set ablaze and razed to the ground in Aker Abuok village of Luony-Aker Payam in Gogrial East County of Warrap State.
Pastor Daniel Marach, the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s director of public relations in the Bahr el Ghazal region told Radio Tamazuj Monday from Wau that an SSPDF commander, Salva Mathok Gengdit, ordered the burning of the church on Thursday and that they are waiting to see what action the state government will take.
“We do not know the reason because our people (believers) would have told us if there was a problem between the church and the community but we were surprised by the burning of the church and it pained us,” he said. “The General who ordered the burning of our church is called Mathok Geng Piol also known as Mathok Gengdit. In his video on social media, we have seen that he accused the church of burning traditional shrines and cultural symbols and that the church youth slept with women and girls.”
“Gen. Mathok had in the past ordered the closure of the church and this is the fourth time that unknown people in Gogrial East County have burned our churches and I discussed this with County Commissioner Maluach Lueth in April,” he added.
Pastor Marach admitted that his church’s members have previously burned traditional shrines and other related paraphernalia at the request of believers and not by force or out of spite of traditionalists.
“Yes, we burned shrines but not by force. It is upon the believers who come and request us to go and burn their shrines because we know there is freedom of worship in South Sudan,” he said. “Our church teaches the Ten Commandments so how does Mathok say that we encourage bad behavior? Even those who worship gods do not do such things as was done against us.”
The SDA Church leader said they used a lot of money to build the razed church and that Mathok Gengdit if he is responsible for burning it to the ground, should reconstruct it.
“We want him (Gen. Gengdit) to change this thinking and reconstruct our churches,” Marach said.
Meanwhile, the Warrap State information minister, William Wol Mayom, said the state government has formed a committee to investigate the incident.
“We also heard this information on social media and the government of Warrap State has formed a committee headed by the minister of gender and religious affairs and other ministers to go down and find out why only the Seventh-day Adventist Church was burned down and yet there are many other churches of other denominations,” Wol said.
Gen. Salva Mathok appeared in a video over the weekend, that has since gone viral, castigating the SDA church in Gogrial East County and was later quoted by a Juba-based media house admitting that he ordered the burning of the SDA church.
Mathok rose to the position of deputy Chief of Staff for administration in the SPLA before being retired from the army by President Salva Kiir and being appointed the national deputy interior minister after South Sudan’s independence. He is currently a member of the Transitional National Legislative Assembly (TNLA) representing a constituency in Gogrial East County.