SOUTH SUDAN: ROLE OF CIVIL SOCIETY VITAL IN SEEKING PEACE
The World Council of Churches (WCC) co-organized a discussion in Geneva on September 28 entitled "Rebuilding from below: The role of local civil society in South Sudan" in which the role of the church and women in the peace process was highlighted. Achieving peace in the fledgling nation of South Sudan is greatly challenged because of ethnic polarization.
John Ashworth, advisor to the WCC on South Sudan, stressed the need for realistic goals in the peace process, saying that "civil society, is weak, young, fragmented...made up of urban elites not in touch with rural people." He stressed the importance of involving the church and traditional civil society - tribal chiefs, including elder women.
Establishing a cease-fire was noted as providing a narrow opportunity of time to work on peace negotiations and Matthias Wevelsiep, Right to Peace Senior Advisor of Finn Church Aid, called on the international players to "support civil society toward a ceasefire" in a holistic way.
Reconciliation was also considered, but realistically, it is a long-term goal. Noting the need for time, since reconciliation is not something that can be attained through laws imposed on the people, Ashworth presented to the group a plan for a "church-led strategy for consultation with 'real grassroots' which would take two to three years." But he warned that the road to full reconciliation would take around 10 - 20 years longer. Though optimistic about achieving reconciliation, Wevelsiep joined Ashworth and others in seeing the need for a progressive, step-by-step move toward the goal of reconciling the 64 tribes in South Sudan and bringing about an end to human rights violations in South Sudan.
Please join us in praying for this country where Open Doors has invested so many resources. The Emmanuel Christian College has always been a place where people could step away from tribal stereotypes and interact with students from various ethnic groups. Alumni and friends of OD have played very important roles in finding negotiated solutions to the conflict in this country. Our prayer is that the Lord, in His grace, would allow the center to continue equipping South Sudanese Christian leaders well to make a difference in this nation with great resources and profound need.
Our Father, we turn to You who through the incarnation, death, and resurrection of the only begotten Son has called us, who were Your enemies, into union and peace with You. We call out to You today to bring peace to this new nation of South Sudan. We pray for the pastors in the nation that they might be godly instruments of peace to draw together the many tribes and clans that war against each other. Thank You, Father, for the role of Open Doors in accomplishing Your work there. Protect them now; protect their ongoing work of training pastors and church leaders to help the nation grow in spiritual strength. As You accomplish Your purposes in this nation through the reconciling work of Your church there, may all know that You have done it; may all rise to praise and worship You. In the name of Jesus, the Prince of Peace, Amen.
Source: Open Doors and "South Sudan: role of civil society vital in seeking peace," World Council of Churches newsletter, October 4, 2016.