During the past year and more, you have supported our efforts in South Sudan with prayer and money. Most concretely, you supported the work of our small health care mission team in Akobo (“our” village) in January of 2013. We and our hosts were – and are – deeply grateful. You may recall that an expanded medical team was planning a trip back to Akobo this past winter. Your contributions toward this effort were generous and appreciated.
Then violence erupted this past December, and our trip was postponed.
After weeks of agonizing and prayer we heard from our closest friends in both the Nuer and Dinka communities – those in the belly of the conflict. They had survived. Most had fled to relative safety in neighboring countries. They pled for help in feeding themselves and their families, and we responded from our personal funds.
Late in January our friend, the Rev. Canon John Jock Chol, host for my initial trip in 2007 and member of the South Sudanese Parliament, sent us a greater request. He wrote of gathering elders, tribal leaders, and others with moral authority, from both sides of the conflict, to begin the conversational process that alone can undergird a lasting peace. I was familiar with the traditional African model of deep listening and respectful response, of building horizontal consensus among all stakeholders. His approach rang deeply true.
This effort, we felt, called for more amply based support than our personal pockets. Would it be all right, we asked ourselves, to use Sudan Communion funds, funds you had contributed, to support this initiative?
We prayed and talked and prayed and sat in gathered silence. Then one of our members, a physician who would have been a member of this winter’s mission team, spoke:
“If we don’t support the peace effort, there won’t be anyone left for us to teach about health care.”
Consensus. If we didn’t support the peace effort there might be nothing we could return to, no way to reach and help our friends. We would support this hopeful vision, so grounded in African tradition.
By now this hopeful, fledgling vision of John Jock’s, supported by your contributions and prayers, has taken wing. It has become the “South Sudan Stakeholders for Peace and Reconciliation”, a consortium of civil society, faith-based, youth, and women’s organizations along with chiefs and influential elders. It has a recognized place at the table of the ongoing Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) mediation and peace talks in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Before the next round of talks in Addis, John Jock is bringing members of the consortium to Nairobi so that these people, who are working for peace above any other loyalty, can be together and listen to each other. These community representatives will be from both the government controlled areas and the areas controlled by the “SPLM (Sudanese Peoples Liberation Movement) in opposition”, so they can develop the strength of relationship and common vision which will be needed when they are in Addis at the more politicized IGAD talks.
We have given roughly two-thirds of our accumulated funds in support of this effort for reconciliation between the contending groups in South Sudan. The need is shifting, not lessening. Members of the consortium will need to be fed and housed in Nairobi, then later in Addis Ababa. There will be transportation expenses.
These people are giving all they have and all they are in hopes of establishing a durable peace in their new nation. They need to be well-fed and well-rested for the work, not distracted by concerns about transportation costs, the next meal, housing, or lack of available communication.
We want to be part of this hopeful enterprise, so grounded in indigenous wisdom. Working together, we can provide meaningful support: financial, yes, and also moral and emotional. We care, and our brothers and sisters of the peace effort for South Sudan need to know that, and be able to rest in that assurance.
Please help as you are able.
P.S. If you would like to see some of John Jock’s correspondence on this initiative, send word to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sudan Communion – Photo Gallery