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Peacebuilding and Trauma Healing (South Sudan)

The Presbyterian Church of South Sudan (PCOSS) has requested partners to pray with them as an important deadline for the peace process approaches.

February 22 marks the deadline for the formation of South Sudan’s ‘Transitional Government of National Unity’, designed to unite president Salva Kiir and head of opposition Riek Machar. It is the latest in a series of deadlines and it is unclear whether it will hold and whether the transitional government put an end to the conflict.

In the meantime, the situation remains dire. South Sudan has some of the world’s worst socio-economic indicators. Fighting has continued in parts of the country and significant humanitarian and human rights issues have not been addressed. Violations including rape and sexual and gender-based violence continue to occur with widespread impunity, and there is near-total lack of support or reproductive health services for survivors. Millions remain internally displaced and about two thirds of the country’s population remains in need of humanitarian assistance. According to the World Food Programme, more than 5.5 million South Sudanese could go hungry by early 2020. Flooding in various parts of the country is currently impacting over 900,000 people.

Our partner the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan (PCOSS) has told us that people across the country are traumatised and mothers live anxiously not knowing what the next day will bring for their children. With the ongoing delays in the formation of a transitional government and concerns that issues may not be resolved even then, people are beginning to lose hope.

The General Secretary of PCOSS, Rev. John Yor Nyiker, has requested we pray for them.

Please join PCOSS and UnitingWorld in praying for:

    • Political leaders to be tools for peace and not for destruction
    • Peace to be sustainable for all who are affected, in South Sudan, in refugee camps in neighbouring countries, as well as diaspora communities around the world
    • Recovery and healing for people who have been affected by flooding, famine and violence in many places across the country
    • Peacemakers from PCOSS and other churches and organisations to be able to continue such important work

We ask that you hold PCOSS and all the people of South Sudan in your prayers as the February 22 deadline approaches and thereafter, until there is peace.

By God’s grace may there be peace in South Sudan in the near future.

Our partner the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan (PCOSS) has been committed to working for peace in South Sudan since the 1970s. This has not been without significant challenges; during the many years of conflict, church buildings have been destroyed and church leaders have been forced to flee to neighbouring countries of Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan. Other pastors, elders and leaders have lost their lives. Despite this, PCOSS continues to work actively for peace, together with other ecumenical bodies in the world and in the region.

UnitingWorld is supporting some of PCOSS’ peacebuilding efforts, including peace and trauma healing workshops for South Sudanese people of various tribes living in refugee camps in bordering countries, and training of church leaders in peacebuilding skills that can be shared with the wider community.

UnitingWorld is the international aid and partnerships agency of the Uniting Church in Australia, collaborating for a world free from poverty and injustice. Click here to support our work.

Jane Kennedy, Associate Director, has recently returned from visiting our partners in South Sudan, where we help facilitate trauma healing and peacebuilding projects.

Jane writes: “Peter Gai is the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan. Until recently, he was also the Chair of the South Sudan Council of Churches.

This year he took South Sudanese political leaders to meet the Pope, who kissed their feet.

While there he experienced the joy of a cappuccino. He has learnt to eat when there is food and to go hungry when there is not.  He doesn’t eat three times a day. He once knew abundance and lived off the land and rivers in South Sudan for 23 years with no income. He had all he and his family needed. He has six children and 12 grandchildren but doesn’t live with them because of the war. He told me even the wild animals have crossed the border running from the gunshots, but they will come back. There is no electricity where he lives in Juba and no work.

He is about to retire from decades of service that has brought conflicting tribes together and is pleased about his legacy. He has travelled the world finding partners in peacebuilding and he is tired.

The church he leads has a dispersed 1.5 million members across the country, as well as in Sudan and Egypt. They are brokenhearted but many are hopeful, against all odds. Peace will bring South Sudan to life; he believes he will see it prosper again in his old age. He prays and works for peace. He laughs and says there are a lot of women at UnitingWorld, but he likes women as they are merciful – men cause trouble and then don’t fix it.

He says whether we are rich or poor we need friends, and we are friends.”

Jane also visited the office of the All Africa Conference of Churches in Nairobi. “They represent 200 million people and speak into policy at the African Union. They lobby governments on issues of peace, gender justice, youth leadership and climate action. They told us about the challenges of non-Africans treating climate change as a hoax while ignoring their experience. They spoke of the urgency around addressing violence against women. Churches here have to be political and loud to bring about change,” said Jane.

With your help, UnitingWorld has assisted the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan to run peacebuilding and trauma healing workshops this year. Thank you!

Rev John Yor Nyker, the General Secretary of the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan (PCOSS) was recently asked the question, “what does transformative partnership mean to you?” His response gave us some insight into the value that he and his church place on their international partnerships.

“Transformative partnership means many things for me. It means learning new things and new culture from others, which is part of strengthening relationship and friendship between partners and our church. It’s caring for others; sharing each other’s happiness and unhappiness, sadness and joy. When the war broke out in South Sudan, our brothers and sisters in Christ’s service were shedding tears for us.

It is not resources that make partnership. Partnership is the ministry, the Kingdom of God through prayers for each other. Partnership is learning, making friendships and sharing of ideas and opinions. It is learning about the global world … learning how to pass [on] the information about your culture and your way of life. It is important to establish partnership as a part of human life.”

Photo: Rev John Yor eating a melting Tim Tam brought to South Sudan from Australia

UnitingWorld is the international aid and partnerships agency of the Uniting Church in Australia. UnitingWorld supports our partners, the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan (PCOSS), to train ministers and lay leaders and equip them with the tools they will need to teach reconciliation and peacebuilding skills in families and between tribal groups throughout South Sudan. Read more | Meet the peacemakers of South Sudan (video)

 

“We shall build peace through forgiveness and love one another. All the churches in South Sudan will pray for peace.” – South Sudanese church leaders.

Our church partners in South Sudan have been running peacebuilding and trauma healing workshops inside refugee camps in neighbouring Uganda and Kenya.

In the first week of June, the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan (PCOSS) held a peacebuilding and trauma healing workshop with South Sudanese refugees in Uganda. Over the three days of the workshop, participants tackled big-picture questions like, “what does healing of trauma look like?” and, “how can we forgive ourselves and build peace in our lives?”

The workshop focused on reconciliation and finding the root causes of conflict. The facilitators spoke about mercy, forgiveness and turning away from tribalism towards repentance. Following the close of the workshop, participants expressed their deep appreciation for the materials and asked for additional and more in-depth workshops to be held.

Rev Paska Aciya of PCOSS recently returned from the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya, where she ran peacebuilding, trauma and reconciliation training.

“I have been in Kakuma Refugee camp to conduct training for our people there who ran because of the war. It was successful; attended by 32 women and some pastors. “As refugees, they have challenges; most are women and children, as most of the women’s husbands have been killed during the war.” – Rev Paska Aciya.

The workshop in Uganda was held as part of our Peacebuilding and Trauma Healing project with the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan. Rev Paska Aciya was also trained to be a facilitator as part of the project. These activities have been made possible thanks to the generosity of UnitingWorld supporters.

Related reading:

South Sudanese churches welcome top leader’s agreement, but warn conflict has expanded (WCC)

 

Photos / Top: Rev Paska and colleagues of PCOSS. Right: Men and women praying at the Peacebuilding and Trauma healing workshop in a Ugandan refugee camp

Following years of violence, the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan (PCOSS) has seen a heavy loss of ministers. Many died in the conflict and others were forced to flee and seek asylum in neighbouring countries.

But this Easter weekend, the PCOSS celebrated the ordination of six ministers (one of them a woman), five elders, and four deacons in Khartoum, Sudan.

The PCOSS has been working tirelessly with partners and the Nile Theological College to renew leadership within the church. These new leaders will work towards restoring the foundation of leadership within the church and preaching a message of peace and reconciliation in their communities.

The new church leaders celebrated Easter in a refugee camp that is now a temporary home to thousands of  refugees from South Sudan.

PCOSS General Secretary, Rev. John Yor Nyker said there were around four thousand people present for their Easter celebration, and he heard that there were other events held across Sudan.

South Sudan, gained independence in 2011. Its short life has been stunted by conflict, as political differences between President Salva Kiir and former Vice-President Riek Machar erupted into full-blown war in 2013.

The conflict and instability in South Sudan led to a devastating famine last year, leaving over 7 million of people dependent on humanitarian assistance and forcing more than a million people to flee the country.

Related reading: ‘South Sudan church leaders in Easter message stand committed to people in face of war and hunger’ (via World Council of Churches)

Yesterday, a team of 11 senior pastors in the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan left for Scotland where they will be trained in peace mediation training workshops by the Church of Scotland. The aim is to equip these senior pastors to be peace mediators in peacebuilding and trauma healing programs across South Sudan. Drawing on the strength and support from their partners across the globe, the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan (PCOSS) is applying news skills and knowledge throughout all of their peacebuilding programming. Tools from this training will directly support peacebuilding and trauma healing workshops supported by UnitingWorld.

Two weeks before Christmas, on a sweltering summer’s day in Juba, 68 lay leaders and ministers from across South Sudan gathered to talk about peace and forgiveness. Finding inspiration from Matthew 18:21-22, the workshop focused on reconciliation and trauma healing. “According to scripture, forgiveness is limitless, compulsory, and two-way. It releases our hearts from sin. Repentance is the key to forgiveness,” explained the Rt Rev Peter Gai Lual Marrow, Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan (PCOSS). Operating in a context where violence and tribalism reign, PCOSS are working day in and day out to preach a message of peace and reconciliation.

Women and men, both lay and ordained, came together for five days to learn about forgiveness and reconciliation, peacebuilding, human rights and justice, conflict resolution, and trauma healing, using a faith-based and multicultural approach. Equipped with the knowledge and tools that they gained at the workshop, each participant has returned to their home church and community to share what they’ve learned.Achieving peace in South Sudan isn’t an easy task.

Our partners believe that the church can act as a tool for unification and peacebuilding among faith communities and communities at large. Their goal is to prepare church leaders for their role in the peacebuilding process by equipping them with the practical skills and knowledge they require alongside a renewed and strengthened faith in their role in God’s mission for peace.