Message from AFRECS
Executive Director, Richard Parkins
Celebrating Independence in July: Who We Are
As we celebrated American Independence on July 4th, we celebrated that
important holiday as Americans. That's what we call ourselves. It's also
how we intentionally or unintentionally embrace certain values such as
fairness, inclusiveness, and freedom. When we challenge our nation to do
better, we invariably invoke those values and norms which we describe as
American. Even though we do not have exclusive claim on these values, they
invariably enter our public discourse as essential ingredients of our
Likewise, when we counter those actions which we deem unacceptable, we
frequently describe these actions as un-American. In short, how we define
ourselves says a lot about who we are and what we believe. Of course, when
we call ourselves Christian, the same assumptions pertain. While Christians
may differ among themselves on theology and practice, we cannot as a
community of faithful believers stray too far from a common belief system
before risking the citation of being unchristian.
All of this hopefully sheds some light on the peace making and
reconciliation that faces South Sudan, if the nation is to emerge from the
vicious civil conflict of the past eight months. If folks see themselves
primarily as Dinka or Nuer, their primary identify will no doubt govern
their behavior. While one either in the US or in South Sudan is likely to
shed one's more parochial identity (Texan or Dinka), when one fixates on a
narrower or more parochial membership, a barrier is created when there is a
larger community such as a nation which needs one's primary allegiance, This
allegiance is essential if the larger community is to survive and flourish.
Narrower identities can be useful and comforting; but if not transcended to
embrace a broader spectrum of humanity, they are hazardous to peace and
harmony. For example, when Dinka or Nuer embrace being Sudanese as what
matters most in how they describe themselves, prospects for a peaceful South
Sudan becomes more likely.
From what we have learned from those engaged in the discipline of
peacemaking and reconciliation, it is only when one's Christian identity and
eventually one's Sudanese identity dominates the thinking of South Sudanese
that initial steps in peacemaking and reconciliation can occur. Friends
who have been part of peacemaking exercises invariably invoke the Christian
narrative, including stories of forgiveness, beginning a move toward a
greater understanding of reconciliation as key to faithful Christian
practice. If one embraces the Gospel message as key to being a Christian
and if being a Christian is what matters most to an individual, then
possibly a different mindset can emerge. If one judges one's worth in terms
of Christian values, then the conflict that now occurs in South Sudan
becomes unacceptable. The embrace of Christian identity and all that that
includes allows one to shed the animosities that inhibit reconciliation. In
fact, shedding these animosities is an imperative.
Obviously, getting to that point is the challenge. Most experts see this as
a process that can be difficult and lengthy, largely because forgiveness is
difficult when the actions against one are so egregious as to be indelibly
imprinted on one's consciousness. A perceived need for revenge is not
easily erased, but the unfolding of the Gospel message with opportunities to
practice forgiveness can inspire new forms of behavior. Hopefully, it will
be the ability of rival tribes in South Sudan to acknowledge a fundamental
allegiance to the Gospel and the messages of Christ that will cause
competing tribal groups to see allegiance to an identity that glorifies
conflict as wrong. The objective is to allow a new sense of being South
Sudanese to take hold. All of this is mentioned as we assess and embrace
the long road to peace and recovery that lies ahead for South Sudan. Our
prayers are that rival Christian groups can commit to a Christian identify
that makes them true peacemakers.
On this last day of July, we say farewell to the month of celebrating
Independence Days. Whether we are in the US or South Sudan, above all we
pray for justice, peace, reconciliation and forgiveness.
The month of August
signals a time of rest from the AFRECS E-Blasts, for all of us involved in
producing them and likewise for you, the faithful reader. The date of our
next scheduled posting is Wednesday, September 10th. By then, we pray that
we may see real, even if modest, improvement in the circumstances in South
Sudan. Hopefully, we will see a growing peace that is "relevant not only to
conflict but also to other domains of social life of particular concern for
Africa, namely: governance, state-building, and economic development."
The above quotation comes from a published paper by Ethiopian
peace negotiator, Hizkias Assefa, entitled, 'Peace And Reconciliation As A
Paradigm.' I'm grateful to have joined his class, 'The Philosophy and Praxis
of Forgiveness and Reconciliation' at Eastern Mennonite University's Center
for Justice & Peacebuilding in the Summer Peacebuilding Institute. A great
deal was shared and learned by all participants, a class of 22 derived
from a student body total of 90 people representing 23 countries. Now we
face the challenge of continuing to learn and sharing what we have absorbed
whatever our circumstance and location in the world.
As we humans pass through phases of development from Childhood
(Dependence), to Adolescence (Independence), and then Adulthood
(Interdependence), we can see that peacemaking values have relevance to a
vast array of social relationships, from those between two people all the
way to global institutional relationships. The process of reconciliation,
however, has an even wider scope, encompassing the four dimensions of
Spiritual (God), Personal/Psychological (Self), Social (Neighbors), and
Ecological (Nature). [For a much fuller explanation, see Dr. Assefa's work
On a personal note, I have found the practice of these concepts of
justice, peacemaking, forgiveness and reconciliation to be a
life-long challenge. May each one of us experience God's peace that passes
all understanding, then pass it on to others - as difficult as that may be
at times. I believe that ultimately, this process is only possible by the
grace of God.
See you in September.
Thoughtfully & prayerfully,
Here is a brief and provocative
about the work that has been done and continues in South Sudan, by Episcopal
Relief & Development, the Anglican Alliance, and SUDRA - the humanitarian
arm of ECSSS - the Episcopal Church of South Sudan and Sudan.
Look here for the link
to the Press Release about House Resolution
#689 which was introduced on Tuesday (7/29/14) by a Bipartisan Group of
House Members. Led by the Bipartisan Caucus on Sudan and South Sudan, the
resolution supports efforts to end the conflict in South Sudan and
encourages greater engagement to alleviate the humanitarian crisis there. It
also praises efforts by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD),
a group of eight nations in the region committed to promoting peaceful
regional development, to mediate the conflict. You may also
to see the text of the resolution.
See the latest USAID fact sheets on the
South Sudan Crisis (Fact
Sheet #5 and
Fact Sheet #50),
where the security situation remains volatile and on the Sudan Complex
Assistance to Sudan and
USG Assistance to South Sudan) where
insecurity continues to cause displacement in all five areas of Sudan's
Darfur region. The statistics - in the thousands, hundreds of thousands, and
millions are beyond the reach of imagination regarding both the numbers of
people displaced and the amount of humanitarian assistance applied in both
of these countries.
Finally, a recent ' The Niles weekly wrap-up' focuses on the "Food Crisis:
Some 3.5 million South Sudanese, or one in three people, face an acute lack
of food, the UN says. A widespread famine is looming..." The following
articles are included:
Equatorial State: farming feeds
the people and could provide for other states.
farmer's tale of working hard to
grow crops in Sudan.
prices soar in Juba where
residents flee or struggle.
-'Agriculture has to be number one'
a video report,
investigating the causes behind the close down of the Gumbo Vegetable Farm
Thank you to our readers for your interest, your prayers, and your support.
Ellen J. Hanckel
PRAY FOR PEACE AND DEEP HEALING OF THE CONFLICTS AND RIVALRIES IN SOUTH
PARTNER, URGE, GIVE
If you'd like to be doing more to help address the crisis in South Sudan,
please consider the following:
* If you have contacts in South Sudan and are able to get news of various
parts of the country and the church from them, keep AFRECS in the loop by
replying to this email or using our main contact email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
* Pay attention to the evolving events and be prepared to advocate for
peacemaking with the US (or other) government, especially if attention to
conflict resolution wanes.
* Give to provide relief for internally displaced persons and others whose
resources are compromised by the fighting and instability. One hundred
donations to AFRECS
go to ECSS&S entities that can provide direct help to the people most in