Bishop Samuel Peni – Bishop of Nzara and Chair of the Church of South Sudan commission for peace and reconciliation
We are the people who are traumatised. We all traumatised – everyone in our nation.
This is true for our church leaders. All our bishops and pastors off all our denominations – we are traumatised. How can we be advocates for our people if we ourselves are living in trauma?
For this reason, we – the Anglican Bishops – went on a retreat in Rwanda. We went to learn from our sisters and brothers in that nation that had experienced a traumatic event and to seek healing. If we are not healed how can we bring healing to others?
We are ready to be advocates and we are ready for all to join us.
The objective of our advocacy has to be to change the narrative from revenge to peace. We have to raise the voice of the voiceless, which in our context is the women, children and the minority tribes. We need to ensure that the most vulnerable are included in the peace process. It is not just the powerful working for the weak, it is the empowering of the weak to shape the future.
In South Sudan we have no unity of purpose, and our political parties are increasingly fragmented and becoming centred on tribe. On top of that we have an almost complete break down in law and order. This is on the basic level of policing our society and holding our civil and military leaders to account.
Advocacy needs to address all these issues.
The Targets of Advocacy
Our first target are the people themselves. We need to engage all the people in the grass roots so they – the traumatised people – have a new hope. We are presently doing this as a church through our Communal Conversations where we gather people to talk about issues and seek solutions.
The second target for or advocacy are the political leaders. They are isolated from the people and struggling to function.
Our final target are the international players from the Troika of the USA, UK and Norway who brokered the 2015 peace deal to the African Union nations who have responsibility for furthering that process. Unfortunately, all those nations are increasingly acting in their own interests. They do not ask what is best for South Sudan, they ask what is best for them.
The American Friends of the Episcopal Churches of the Sudans (AFRECS) has a significant role to play in the future of advocacy alongside the churches of South Sudan. We hope AFRECS can get the US government to listen to the people of South Sudan. All the people, but especially the voiceless.
We have work to do. We have to ask ourselves why our nation does not show Christian values when 80% of our people declare themselves as followers of Jesus. We demonstrate corruption, violence and tribalism and all these are against the Christian way.
We need to be united and we need the South Sudanese diaspora to speak with one voice, to act with great zeal and have the same goal for change to come in South Sudan.