SOUTH SUDAN

Religion

With regards to religious beliefs and practices, South Sudanese are mostly pluralistic, with majority of them, about 85%, adhering to indigenous belief systems, which involve totems, lower gods and high God, and belief in the power of ancestors to look over the living. Others believe in both the indigenous systems and Christianity. There is also a very small percentage of Muslims. Traditionally, religion was never a source of conflict, as it was always inseparable from ethnic identity. In the indigenous religions, one is born into it, as one’s religion is the same as one’s blood, and therefore no room for efforts to convert others. But when the so-called religions of the book, Christianity and Islam ascended, the concept of proselytization and efforts to convert people became a question of placing the faiths in hierarchy, with local religions thought by foreign missionaries as inferior and the people needing their souls to be saved. This has long pitted the people against one another, resulting, at least partly, in protracted wars between the religion of the state in the old Sudan, Islam, and believers in other faiths in South Sudan who did not want to be forced into Islam. Otherwise, within South Sudan, religion is not just a question of coming to terms with the cosmos, but as much a way of life as it is a way of reckoning with the unknown, including the mystery of life and death.