AFRECS E-Blast: November 21, 2016

The Power of a Faithful Witness
Message from Executive Director, Richard Parkins: 
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Dear Friends,

Several of us were blessed to share time with Bishop Samuel Peni, the Bishop of Nzara of the ECSSS, these past several days as he visited Washington, DC and told an array of government officials concerned with South Sudan about the current state of affairs in this conflict ridden nation.  The  Bishop's compelling testimony to the violence that rages in his country brought home again how important it is to hear from a first hand witness to the unremitting violence that is bringing such horrific suffering to our friends in South Sudan.  No matter how many accounts one reads that set forth the extent of the tragedy that South Sudan is experiencing, a personal message from a church leader who has personally experienced the horrors of this civil war makes clear the urgency of bringing peace to this war ravaged nation.
 
After thanking those whose work in our Government has been focused on helping South Sudan move to independence and now survive the impact of the current crisis, the Bishop asked that our shared frustration that the war is worsening not diminish steadfast support of the people of South Sudan and their yearning for peace and reconciliation.  We were assured in all instances of the reliability of the friendship of the US Government to the people of South Sudan. 
 
The Bishop presented a daunting picture of the suffering of his people, always underscored by a belief that peace would have the last word if friends here continued to be patient and persistent advocates for peace in South Sudan. 
 
The forthrightness of the Bishop's message prompted many questions from those who heard it.  Each meeting seemed to deepen the respect that the listeners had for the role of the churches in being the most viable purveyors of peace and reconciliation.  The Bishop himself, as chair of the Peace and Justice Commission of the Episcopal Church, offered a great example of what church leadership might accomplish if resources to do meaningful peace and reconciliation work were available. 
 
We shared moments of prayer and reflection as we pondered the way forward for our friends in South Sudan.  I am convinced that our ability to offer to policy makers  a chance to exchange thoughts with church leaders from South Sudan adds to the knowledge needed to enrich the friendship between our nation and the people of South Sudan.  Hearing words of gratitude as well as candid accounts of the realities faced by peacemakers is a contribution to the discourse so essential to the truth telling needed as all sides struggle to bring peace to South Sudan.

Peace,
Richard
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Brief Excerpts of Conference Addresses and Reflections currently available: 
 
Editor's note: When other items become available, they will be considered for inclusion in future eblasts. If you have anything to submit, please send it to: info@afrecs.org
By clicking on the following names highlighted in blue, the link will take you to the conference 'Biographies' page on the AFRECS website. There you can locate further information about each author. Follow the link at the end of each excerpt to read the complete text of the article. (Highly recommended.)
 
Dane Smith:
- What is the biggest challenge to an effective church peacebuilding role? The conflict has become heavily militarized. It’s not an argument over ideology. It’s not a struggle over what policies should be pursued by the government. It is rather a struggle among different SPLA militias, plus some tribal militias, which have become arrayed largely along ethnic lines. Moreover, the militia leaders, more or less linked to the two principals, have access to wealth through force of arms. They don’t have much incentive to stop fighting because they have no overriding political goals with the possible exception of ethnic revenge. That makes it particularly hard for other institutions in society – such as churches or tribal elders – to exercise moral suasion over the combatants. And, a related point, the traditional role of women as peacemakers has diminished. Indeed, in the struggle of militias, women are subjected to unprecedented violence, including mass rape by unrestrained armed men. Clearly most South Sudanese women feel unable to play a peacebuilding role at this time. However, the Task Force on the Engagement of Women in Sudan and South Sudan is continuing its efforts, now focused heavily on South Sudan. 
- In this wretched situation, how do we get to a more effective peacebuilding role? I don’t have a plan. That would be highly presumptuous. But hopefully some of the following points will stimulate the creativity of those working for peace on the ground.
 Go to this link for the complete text of the above excerpt.
 
Jim Leach:
- In Sudan and South Sudan reconciliation is a moral imperative rather than an abstract option.  If not treated as an imperative, options on the table could too easily become annihilation or harsh and demeaning subjugation. 
- Here the South African experience is of relevance.  Particularly instructive is the work of a distinguished professor of rhetoric and linguistics the University of South Carolina, Erik Doxtader, who on a MacArthur grant has chronicled the reconciliation process still underway in that country.  In an analysis that skips from sociology and history to philosophy and ethics, Doxtader notes how leaders of one of the intransigent sides gingerly started to use, perhaps insincerely, the word “reconciliation” and how the other side, also gingerly and perhaps insincerely, competitively responded by using it as well.  Repetitive usage of the word caused both sides, each filled more with fears and bitter memories than any sense of affection, to consider deeply what reconciliation and contrasting alternatives might mean for their country.  Forthcoming steps began tentatively to be taken by a Gandhi-esque figure, Nelson Mendala, and his apartheid regime counterpart, FW de Klerk, and the concept of reconciliation came to be defined by events as they unfolded.  
- Faith-based systems led by compassionate leaders like Archbishop Desmond Tutu came to reinforce the logic of mutual accommodation.  An infrastructure of churches helped make possible the humanity of togetherness.  Christ’s guidance to love thy neighbor may not as yet characterize South African society but the reconciliation process has made such a prospect a real world possibility.
- From the perspective of this outsider who in Congress had helped lead the effort to impose sanctions on South Africa’s apartheid government, it would seem that a near miracle has begun to take hold.  Instead of hate and inequality sparking the bloodiest of civil wars in South Africa, the noun “reconciliation” became an action verb with accelerating meaning.  For the Sudans today the issues are similarly immediate.  
Go to this link for the complete text of the above excerpt.
 
Phil Groves:
- The AFRECS conference was dominated by the failure of the South Sudanese state to bring the hoped for peace across tribal divides. This meant that the concerns of the Sudanese Christians for their homes in the Nuba Mountains, or in Khartoum were to some extent lost. This was acknowledged towards the end of the conference and time was given for prayer, but more needs to be done. 
- AFRECS is an absolutely vital organisation and it has opened doors in the Washington corridors of power for Sudanese and South Sudanese church leaders. This is still absolutely vital. The vocal participation of so many from the Diaspora will add to the authenticity of the voice of AFRECS. There are plans for this voice to be amplified over the coming years. There is a need for women to be given a greater say and for there to be an intentional focus on the plight of persecuted Christians in Sudan. The nations have quickly become distinct in their character and this reality needs to be replicated in the AFRECS support.
- The AFRECS Conference was challenging and realistic. There will be violence in the future. The birth pains are not over for the new state of South Sudan. Persecution will remain for the Christians of Sudan. The conference was also hopeful. Hope is based in the power of our God to bring life out of death and send his Spirit of Peace (John 14:26-27).
Go to this link for the complete text of the above excerpt. 
Also, you will find at this link information about Living Reconciliation, a book co-authored by Phil Groves concerning the Continuing Indaba journey in the Anglican Communion.
 
Shirley Smith Graham:
- Last weekend I was witness to another invisible wound.  Instead of being with you here at Christ Church, I helped bring together people from South Sudan who are seeking to prevent a new genocide.  As you may know, the new nation of South Sudan has been torn apart by violence and vengeance.  But, I had the privilege of gathering with people from four different tribal groups... (including Dinka and Nuer)... to encourage them to talk about how they could help build peace.  And, sure enough, we found examples of how people were cooperating across the divisions between tribes to bring water and goods to people so that they could survive and dream a future. 
- But, there was an invisible burden among us.  One of the facilitators asked the women present why women weren’t taking a more prominent role in peace building in South Sudan and in the Nuba Mountains.  One very courageous woman then stood up and explained that, when women try to exercise leadership outside their tribe, they are assaulted, they are attacked, and sometimes they even lose their lives.  So then, not only is the whole nation deprived of their leadership, but also the women carry this invisible scar, this invisible burden, they carry it forever.
- When we carry invisible scars, we begin to feel invisible. 
... - My friends from Sudan and South Sudan know they are not alone, in part because they told of their experience of being attacked and humiliated and we did not shrink away or treat them like we didn’t want to know.  But also these women are not alone because they now have partnerships for doing good.
- This is the way God works, when heaven touches earth and we are changed: the wounds of the broken-hearted are healed, the captive is set free, the blind see, and we are seen.  No matter what that one thing is that causes us to feel invisible, we are seen by God and brought into the fellowship of the beloved by God’s own love.  
Go to this link for the complete text of the above excerpt. 
 
Ranjit Matthews:
- The AFRECS conference was an important occurrence. I say that because our world, and indeed our nation is Balkanized, torn in the fabric, and dis-engaged from the other. It is manifested in our politics and the way in which fact-less aspersions are thrown around.  It has become too easy to mudsling in our world.   
 - The Indaba process, engaging with the other in deep dialogue, is a critical way of seeing the Christ in the other. I commend wholeheartedly the leadership of the Rev. Dr. Rich Jones, and the work of the Rev. Canon Phil Groves, for having the foresight to engage the AFRECS discussion leaders and participants in the important work of Indaba, for the sake of the Gospel and peace in South Sudan.    
- I had the opportunity to facilitate two discussion groups, and found that participants were present and engaged in the work of God that was before them. There was a commitment and deep love for the country of South Sudan and its people, brothers and sisters who are in the midst of terrible turmoil. At the same time, we witnessed to the Christ in the other person.  This is not to say that these were not hard conversations - because in fact they were difficult conversations - but the Indaba process helped participants engage in a way that was constructive and I think, life-giving.  
- I was particularly moved by members of the Sudanese diaspora.  A portion of the narrative that has been shared about this prolonged conflict has been an intransigence around ethnicity. While there was some truth to that, there were moments of breakthrough, of recognizing the dignity of the other, before other identities came to the fore. That was clearly on display in our group, and it lifted up for me the gift of intentional Indaba, one that was not predicated on wiping away conflict, but on engaging these difficulties with the eyes of Christ, with the eyes of seeing the Beloved in the other person. 
Go to this link for the complete text of the above excerpt.   
 
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Recent News from South Sudan
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SSCC (South Sudan Council of Churches) Press Statement dated 30th of October 2016 titled: Meeting of his Holiness Pope Francis with the Principal Religious Leaders of South Sudan 
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Excerpt of the 11/12/16 letter from CASS (Coalition of Advocates for South Sudan) to the AU (African Union) and IGAD (Inter-Governmental Agency for Development) regarding Genocide in South Sudan:
We, the undersigned 101 South Sudanese, human rights organizations, scholars and friends of South Sudan, write to express our grave concern regarding the deteriorating crisis in South Sudan. The actions of the actors in the South Sudanese conflict have produced an outcome that has raised the possibility of genocide as shown by the recent increase in ethnically-targeted attacks in the country.  Polarized communities are also increasingly using various social media platforms to spew hate speech. This rhetoric is inciting violence and animosity in a period when bridge-building is desperately needed.  All indications point to the fact that the threat of genocide will only increase in the days ahead.
 
IGAD and the African Union are in charge of addressing the crisis in South Sudan, therefore, we write to warn you that the situation on the ground continues to deteriorate and to urge you to take immediate action to avert a looming catastrophe in South Sudan.  Peace in South Sudan and stability in the region are entirely dependent on the respect for the rule of law and the coexistence of communities in mutually complementary terms.  The competency and legacy of your organizations and more importantly, the life or death of innocent South Sudanese will be determined by the actions you choose to take.  Do not let another genocide happen on your watch.  Please act now.
Go to this link for the complete text of the above excerpt.
 
Also, you will find at this link a Report of the 2nd Annual CASS meeting that was held in September in Washington, DC.
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Excerpt of the 11/15/16 letter
Interim report of the 
Panel of Experts on South Sudan
 
addressed to The President of the UN Security Council:
Summary (Unedited):
 

In the wake of the de facto collapse of the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan after the fighting in Juba in July 2016, the political and security situation in the country has continued to deteriorate markedly, and the prospects for an even more catastrophic escalation of violence at the outset of the dry season in November and December are high. Armed actors on all sides continue to demonstrate in word and in deed that they are preparing for just such an escalation. 

The permanent ceasefire envisaged in the Agreement has not been respected by the parties. Violence is surging in greater Equatoria and has included the systematic targeting of civilians, gross violations of human rights and international humanitarian law and widespread sexual violence as part of the brutal counter-insurgency campaign undertaken by the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and militias affiliated with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLM/A) in Government led by the President, Salva Kiir. In Central Equatoria — the seat of the capital, Juba — armed groups are increasingly targeting vehicles carrying goods and civilians, many of whom are Dinka, in retaliation for the government offensive and other policies. Compounded by the intensity of inflammatory rhetoric by Dinka and non-Dinka alike in recent weeks, these tactics have the potential to provoke violent ethnic conflict on an even greater scale. Fighting is also continuing in Western Bahr el-Ghazal, Upper Nile and Unity, and arms continue to flow into the country. 

While the flight of the leader of SPLM/A in Opposition, Riek Machar, from South Sudan may give the appearance of the ascendance of Kiir and his inner circle and may have emboldened these elements, deep structural weaknesses within the regime and SPLA, in addition to an increasing lack of control over large portions of the country, nevertheless underscore the tenuous nature of his rule. Kiir’s co-optation of the Agreement by placing his proxies in most positions reserved for SPLM/A in Opposition members within the Transitional Government of National Unity has foreclosed a meaningful political and reconciliation process, further dividing the country along tribal lines, given that many non-Dinka communities — and Dinka alienated by the regime — see no viable forum to express political dissent, pursue reform or ensure their basic security. Provocative policy initiatives, such as Kiir’s order of October 2015 to increase the number of states from 10 to 28, proposed by the Jieng Council of Elders and supported and defended by political figures such as the Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Michael Makuei, are exacerbating these divisions.

This volatility is compounded within Juba by concerns about Kiir’s health and the uncertainty of presidential succession. Rumours in mid-October that Kiir had become gravely ill, subsequently proved to be somewhat exaggerated, raised fears of possible armed conflict erupting between various factions over the future of the presidency, notably between the SPLA Chief of General Staff, Paul Malong, and the Director General of the Internal Security Bureau of the National Security Service, Akol Koor, in addition to various other Dinka clans and political affiliates. 

The armed opposition to Kiir’s regime is an increasingly multifaceted amalgam of forces encompassing dissident groups with diverse grievances, aims and approaches to the war. Many of these groups are either not under the direct control of SPLM/A in Opposition led by Machar, which was a party to the Agreement, or are only loosely affiliated with it. Nevertheless, Machar’s resilience, notwithstanding the government attempts to assassinate him in greater Equatoria, has seemingly provided more motivation for Equatorian armed elements to associate formally with SPLM/A in Opposition. The perception that the belligerence of Kiir’s Dinka-dominated regime is leading the country inexorably towards a devastating tribal war, coupled with a sense that the international community is failing to take the steps necessary to avoid a further escalation of the conflict, are providing impetus among non-Dinka opposition political and military forces towards greater coordination, if not complete organizational unity.

Mass displacements, both internally and across borders, have accelerated in recent months, with more than 1 million South Sudanese now having sought refuge in neighbouring countries — 200,000 from greater Equatoria alone between July and October.a Severe food insecurity, approaching famine levels in some areas, affects at least 4.8 million people,a over one third of the population. Peacekeeping and humanitarian operations continue to be relentlessly obstructed, principally by civilian and armed actors affiliated with SPLM/A in Government. Notwithstanding the purported acceptance by Kiir’s regime of the regional protection force envisaged under Security Council resolution 2304 (2016), his spokesperson publicly rejected the proposed troop-contributing countries on 24 October. While Kiir established a committee on 14 October to facilitate an improvement in humanitarian access within two weeks,b there had been no evidence of improved access as at the time of submission of the present report on 28 October. In fact, the government has consistently failed to demonstrate any willingness to alleviate what is by every empirical measure among the worst country-wide humanitarian emergencies in the world. 

The extension of the war also continues to pose an increasingly grave threat to the country’s neighbours. For example, on 13 August, some 800 to 900 troops from SPLA Division VI launched an incursion into the Democratic Republic of the Congo, crossing the border and engaging in a battle with SPLM/A in Opposition. On 17 August, two MI-24 helicopters also crossed the border, travelling nearly 6 km into Congolese territory and again attacking SPLM/A in Opposition positions. 

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Panel Recommendations (Edited):
The Panel makes the following recommendations to achieve the objectives of the Security Council - namely an inclusive and sustainable peace in South Sudan:
 
(a) That the Committee designate high-level decision makers responsible for the actions and policies that threaten the peace, security and stability of the country, including those who are responsible for serious crimes under international humanitarian and international human rights law and who have the power and influence either to perpetuate or end the war. The Panel provided a confidential annex to the Committee with the names of such individuals in January 2016;
 
(b) That, to prevent the further destabilization of the security situation in South Sudan and in particular the continuing large-scale human rights violations that the Panel has determined are directly related to the supply of arms and ammunition to non-State actors and groups by all sides, as well as to prevent the further transfer or use of heavy equipment, the Security Council impose an embargo on the supply, sale or transfer to South Sudan, from or through the territories or by the nationals of all Member States, or using their flag vessels or aircraft, of arms and related materiel of all types, including weapons and ammunition, military vehicles and equipment, paramilitary equipment and spare parts for the aforementioned, and technical assistance, training, financial or other assistance relating to military activities or the provision, maintenance or use of any arms and related materiel, including the provision of any form of training by foreign forces or armed mercenary personnel whether or not originating in their territories. The Panel further maintains its recommendations for the modalities for the implementation of such an embargo...;
 
(c) That, to further compliance with the existing designations, the Committee write to the banking regulatory authorities of Kenya and Uganda, reiterating the obligations ... to comply with the asset freeze (already) established... and extended..., and issue a press release encouraging State and commercial banks in Kenya and Uganda to implement the freeze.
Go to this link for the complete text of the above excerpt.
 
The New York Times: U.S., in Shift, Backs Arms Embargo for South Sudan as Genocide Risk Rises (Nov. 17)
The New York Times: UN Calls on Sudan and South Sudan to Negotiate Over Abyei (Nov. 15)
The New York Times: UN Warns That South Sudan Risks Spiraling Into a Genocide (Nov. 11)
The New York Times: South Sudan Authorities Shut Down Popular Radio Station (Nov. 11)
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Thank you to our readers for your interest, your prayers, and your support. 
We invite you to visit our Website: http://www.afrecs.org/
Ellen J. Hanckel
Editor
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PRAY. TEACH. PARTNER. URGE. GIVE. LEARN. 
 
If you'd like to be doing more to help address the crisis in South Sudan, please consider the following:
 
*Pray for peace and deep healing of the conflicts and rivalries in South Sudan.
 
*Join AFRECS or renew your annual membership on line at http://www.afrecs.org/getInvolved.htm

* 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: info@afrecs.org
 
* Be prepared to advocate for peacemaking with the US (or other) government, especially if attention to conflict resolution wanes.
 
*Donate to support the Episcopal Church in South Sudan and Sudan’s efforts to provide solace and encourage reconciliation. 
 
*Urge others to support AFRECS as well.