The following information comes to us by way of Sr. Joan Mumaw of Friends in Solidarity, the U.S. partner to solidarity with South Sudan. Their offices are part of the shared building with CMSM.
This is what many are saying about South Sudan. Reading newspaper accounts of the ongoing violence, which began as a power struggle between political leaders and rekindled unresolved ethnic hostilities, one would think there is no hope for peace in this new country.
There are, however many peace-making initiatives taking place both inside and beyond the borders of South Sudan. The government has initiated a National Dialogue on reconciliation and peace which is now holding regional gatherings. The South Sudan Council of Churches has received funding from the US Government, through Catholic Relief Services, to develop peace building initiatives at all levels. The Intergovernmental Authority on Development, IGAD, comprised of the countries surrounding South Sudan, has taken the initiative to hold talks with the opposition leader, Riek Machar, who is being held captive in South Africa. IGAD is also hosting meetings in Ethiopia with the hope of bringing opposing sides together and honoring the August 2015 Agreement.
With the splintering of the SPLA, the national army, and emergence of local militias, there are no longer just two “sides.” Any peace initiative needs to deal with all the factions and include not only government leaders, but also civil society, women and the youth.
The greatest potential for peace making is the country’s rich heritage of community-led peace processes. The churches are well positioned to assist local communities coming together to resolve local conflicts and reflect on the larger conflict besetting the nation. Bishop Emeritus, Paride Taban, from Torit Diocese, has established the Kuron Peace Village and called on leaders from the area to gather in the village to engage in processes leading to reconciliation and forgiveness.
Solidarity with South Sudan, working with the National Pastoral Director, is introducing the concept of active non-violence to groups of women, young adults, diocesan pastoral leaders and clergy – building awareness and skills over a three year period. In turn, these groups will plan together for similar workshops at the local level. Sr Annette St. Amour, IHM, a member of the training team, writes, “A quality of the South Sudanese people is resilience. Month after month, year after year they have been living in the midst of conflict, insecurity, poverty, hunger and now hyperinflation with the rising cost of food and basic necessities. They express being ‘sick and tired’ of war and conflict.” They are open to any initiatives which will end the conflict and are eager to learn skills to avoid conflict in the future.
We invite religious communities to join with the South Sudanese people in praying for peace with this Prayer for South Sudan. You can also access the Advent Brochures at Advent Journey. To make a tax deductible donation in support of Solidarity peace-building initiatives click here.