The U.S. State Department expressed increasing concern that the ongoing conflict in South Sudan could become genocide in light of the recent violence in the Equatoria region.

“Ethnically motivated hate speech, the targeting of civilians and sexual violence is becoming widespread,” said deputy spokesperson Mark Toner on Dec. 5.

“It is a dire situation of death and life right now,” South Sudanese Baptist leader Edward Dima told “The U.S. assessment of the situation is correct but too late … Houses destroyed, property looted, women raped, lives burned by fire in Yei, and the international community kept watching and none is accountable.”

Toner cited a Nov. 17 report from Adama Dieng, the U.N. Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide, who told the U.N. Security Council that “there is strong risk of violence escalating along ethnic lines with a potential to spiral into genocide.”

Dieng emphasized in his report that genocide is planned, not spontaneous. “It does not happen overnight. And because it is a process and one that takes time to prepare, it can be prevented.”

Interviewees in “The Disturbances,”’s documentary about missionaries and pastors saving lives amid the 1966 genocide in Nigeria, spoke about genocide being planned and coordinated, not random or spontaneous.

Baptist missionary Bill Cowley emphasized that genocide is taught before it takes place.

“So, who knows when did a given genocide begin? When did grandparents, great-grandparents, ancestors begin to think such things and extend those to their children and grandchildren?” he asked.

Cowley added, “It continues to develop and snowball … until one day it breaks loose. So, I think it’s a long process of teaching. We teach people to hate. We teach people to love.”

Genocide scholar Godfrey Uzoigwe also affirmed that genocide “is not spontaneous,” and emphasized that it results from “a series of choices.”

“All the warning signs are there, that what began as a political conflict has transformed into what could become an outright ethnic war” and possibly genocide, Dieng reported about South Sudan. “Action can and must be taken now to address some of the factors that could provide fertile ground for genocide.”

Dima concurred with this assessment, telling, “Now genocide is ripe and hundreds [are] being killed by the government militias in Equatoria region.”

Church leaders have tried to work with government leaders to seek peace, Dima reported, “but everything has fallen unto deaf ears and thousands are now leaving the country.”

He added, “The Baptist church leaders have tried to mobilize food and medical supplies, but the needs are too huge that we cannot manage. We called for leaders to seek for peace but nobody is listening and now [we are] praying for God to intervene. We need your support brethren now [more] than ever.”

Editor’s note: A video interview in which Dima shares about South Sudan’s history can be viewed here. Previous articles related to South Sudan are available here, and photos from South Sudan provided by Dima can be found here. FBC Kajo-Keji’s Facebook page is here.

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