The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rev Dr Rowan Williams, has spoken out against the recent fighting in South Sudan, saying it was "the poorest and most vulnerable who bear the brunt of the violence, who have lost lives, loved ones and homes".

More than 300 people have died and thousands more have been displaced since violence broke out in early July.

In a statement issued on Tuesday by Christian Aid, an organisation of which he is chairman, Rev Dr Williams, said the recent escalation of violence had caused "yet more appalling suffering for the people of South Sudan who have over the past two and a half years endured the terrible consequences of a return to war and the bitter disappointment of hopes denied or deferred."

“It is - as so often - the poorest and most vulnerable who bear the brunt of the violence, who have lost lives, loved ones and homes. Thousands of people have been displaced by the recent violence. Many have sought refuge in church compounds across Juba, seeking safety and protection. These people are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance."

Rev Dr Williams said that for too long, people in the nation "have struggled to continue with their daily lives against the threat of food shortages, widespread displacement, economic crisis, and the trauma of murderous conflict". 

“The recent hostilities have demonstrated the fragility of the peace agreement. They have underscored the need for the international community to call the leaders of South Sudan to account in implementing the promise of peace," he said.

"They have shown just how much is at stake in this for future generations in South Sudan: if the next generation is to inherit anything more than devastation, resentment and failed hopes, urgent action is imperative in ending this conflict."

Rev Dr Williams said that the churches are once again standing as "one of the few signs of hope, giving voice to the needs of the people of South Sudan".

"Their commitment to working for peace and reconciliation is as strong as ever," he said. Quoting a statement from the South Sudan Council of Churches, he said  ‘The time for carrying and using weapons has ended; now is the time to build a peaceful nation.’ I affirm and echo their cry for peace. I stand with them in praying that parties, communities and leaders do everything in their power to ‘create an atmosphere where violence is not an option’.”