AFRECS E-Blast: December 8, 2016

Rays of Light
Message from Executive Director, Richard Parkins: 
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Dear Friends,
 
As we contemplate the holy season of Advent, we encounter imagery about light and light against darkness.  We hear of the light that banishes darkness.  We are encouraged to approach the light.  We are told that light should overcome darkness or that darkness cannot extinguish the light. All of these expressions are about the light of Christ that intrudes in the world as an infant and  as an expression of God's presence among his people.  How does all of this pertain to our friends in Sudan and South Sudan where darkness seems to be so prevalent and persistent?
 
As we struggle to apply the light metaphor to what seems to be a worsening situation in both Sudan and South Sudan, what comes to mind are those occasions when just a little bit of light makes a difference.  Think of times when utter darkness surrounded you, and then there were those rays of light that made all of the difference in terms of your ability to function, to move forward, to find your way.  Thinking of the work of AFRECS and the ministry of others invested in Sudan and South Sudan as providing rays of light in a terribly dark situation might be helpful.
 
Sometimes as danger spreads and fear overtakes, retreating from the scene seems like a logical response and certainly a safe one.  But that is not who we are as friends of Sudanese whose histories have been one of seemingly constant suffering.  The Advent message is not to retreat but to convey light and to approach the light. 
 
With respect to our relationship to South Sudan and Sudan this Advent season, let us be robust conveyors of light.  Let our prayers for peace and reconciliation be more fervent and persistent.  Let our outreach in whatever way is available to us be more generous.  Let our embrace of our friends in these parts of the world where peace seems so illusive be more firm.  Let us find places and occasions to shed light so that darkness for at least some is dispelled, maybe even allowing them to become light bearers to themselves.  Offering rays of light is worth doing, hoping that those rays make the pathway forward safer and more peaceful.
 
Advent blessings,
RIchard
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AFRECS Leaders' Statement offered after Building Bridges of Reconciliation conference held recently in Iowa:
 
Ninety-six Christians from various parts of the US, along with members of the Sudanese Diaspora gathered in Des Moines, Iowa, from October 21-23 to explore how members of the diaspora and their friends could build bridges of trust and reconciliation to end the violence and, as some claimed, the imminent genocide that faces South Sudan.

Discussions were informed by those knowledgeable about developments in South Sudan, including leaders from within the Diaspora and representatives of programs carried out in South Sudan to improve the lives of the South Sudanese people.

Discussion was facilitated by a style of dialogue which emphasized honest listening and truth telling as basic to achieving understanding among disparate groups of participants.  Guided discussion among different groups brought forward the realization that all had a shared responsibility to pursue peace to prevent the current crisis in South Sudan from deepening.

It was generally recognized that the legacies of distrust and weak political structures had left the country prey to the ambitions of leaders willing to exploit vulnerable populations to advance their own ambitions. The result has been the acceleration of violence that has touched virtually all regions of the country and all sectors of society.

 A counter and more optimistic message was offered as members of the Diaspora and their friends lifted up stories about projects that had brought positive change to the lives of many South Sudanese. These included empowering women to provide critical leadership in improving the lives of families in their respective communities, building schools and clinics in areas where neither had existed, and investing in wells that made clean water accessible to villages that had no immediate access to this vital resource. These initiatives had leadership from the Diaspora, local Sudanese leaders along with church partners in the US.  They gave evidence to the resilience of South Sudanese to move forward even in the midst of conflict.  These accounts offered a powerful counter narrative to that of despair and hopelessness which had become so prevalent as South Sudan's civil war spread, engulfing thousands more in horrific suffering.

The conference organizers felt that the sharing that took place among the broad spectrum of conferees and the considerable opportunity for honest exchange, resulted in a desire for continued dialogue among the various faith communities with an interest in South Sudan and the ethnicities who claim a stake in the country's future. 

AFRECS will seek ways to support such efforts. At a Eucharist following the conference, Bishop Samuel Peni. head of the church's Justice, Peace, and Reconciliation Commission, urged those concerned about South Sudan, to persist in peace making remembering God’s promises to the peace makers.

Submitted by: Executive Director, C. Richard Parkins; AFRECS President, David C. Jones; Chair of Conference Committee, Richard J. Jones

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Recent News: South Sudan
 
USIP: U.S. Institute for Peace: Not On Our Watch in South Sudan: Options to Prevent Mass Atrocities and Genocide in the World's Newest Country. This Webcast will Live-Stream at 10 AM on Thursday, December 8, 2016. Thereafter, it will be available to view on the above USIP website.
 
Norad: Norwegian Agency for Development Co-operation: Country Evaluation Brief on South Sudan, November 2016. 
This very thorough report offers a great deal of useful information from many different points of view. "The purpose of this Country Evaluation Brief is to present relevant knowledge about donors’ development efforts in South Sudan. The brief systematises relevant findings from existing evaluations of development interventions in the country. The idea is to present the findings to the reader in a succinct and easily accessible format."
 
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Updates from South Sudan:
 
Justin Welby: The Archbishop of Canterburyrecently welcomed the South Sudan Council of Churches' ecumenical delegation to Lambeth Palace.
 
Newsletter from Wau Diocese of ECSSS where many positive programs are taking place, even in the face of uncertain security.
 
Website of the Bishop Gwynne College in Juba where there has been a recent graduation and where peace and reconciliation study is a regular part of the curriculum.
 
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Regional News:
 
Reuters: Careful Steps for Catholic Church tasked with pulling Congo back from crisis. This article about the Democratic Republic of Congo, a country bordering South Sudan, was shared by John Ashworth who frequently emails articles of interest. It was accompanied by his message, following: "The task of preventing [the] political crisis from spiralling into fresh conflict falls to the country’s... Church, one of the few institutions to emerge from decades of turmoil with its credibility intact. The role as mediator of last resort illustrates the clout of the Church... where [Church] leaders have long gone beyond their pastoral duties to fill the void left by an absent state, providing healthcare and schooling, and promoting human rights and democracy...'No one is better positioned today to be the honest broker. Not the discredited AU, nor the West'..." This could equally well be said of the Church in South Sudan, except that in our case it is the ecumenical Church, ie all the main churches united together in theSouth Sudan Council of Churches, not only the Catholic Church as in DRC. John (Ashworth). Contact ashworth.john@gmail.com  to subscribe to his list serve.
 
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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.