AFRECS E-Blast: April 6, 2017
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'A Counter Message'
from Executive Director, Richard Parkins: 
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Dear Friends,
 
Voices of hope in the midst of despair are often hoped for but rarely heard.  However, when such voices are given a platform, it becomes incredibly clear that there is a counter message of peace and recovery struggling to be heard.  What is also clear is the importance of such  messages if the roar of violence is to be silenced.  Such was the case when two different church leaders visited the metro Washington area this past week.
 
Mother Harriet Baka, who was in the States to participate in the UN Meeting on the Status of Women, visited Virginia Seminary and spoke to a group of local church folks and VTS seminarians about the plight of her sisters and brothers in South Sudan.  She spoke passionately about the work of women at the grass roots  who with vital support from Five Talents were showing communities a way forward where ethnicities could live into a shared commitment to peace and mutual respect.   While Harriet offered a lot of wisdom, a dynamic  force of her time with us was her faith in God's message of love and forgiveness and her courage in delivering it even when at times it may have struggled to be heard and accepted. 
 
A few days later, I was able to greet a friend who had inspired me a couple of years ago as a young leader of the ECSSS.  Bishop Moses Anur Ayom, recently consecrated as the bishop of the newly formed Diocese of Athooch, spoke as the guest of All Saints parish, telling parishioners at three services and a forum  about his journey from being a lost boy surviving  Sudan's earlier crisis to becoming a bishop of the ECSSS. There was no mistaking in the Bishop's homily that it was the Lord as his shepherd who had brought him through years of suffering to a place of leadership in his church and that it was faith in this same shepherd that would ultimately deliver South Sudan from the suffering and devastation that now surrounds it.  Again, it was the messenger as much as the message that inspired and uplifted. 
 
It is because of the good people whose faith, courage, and leadership that we experience that we persist in believing that peace will come to South Sudan.  We are given powerful reminders of God's abiding presence in the lives of people like Harriet and +Moses and understand that they transmit God's healing touch to those whom they serve.  This in turn fosters the healing that is sorely needed if a new chapter is to be written in the history of South Sudan.  Let us pray that such leadership will flourish.  

Faithfully in Christ,
Richard
 
 
 
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'Harriet Baka Speaks for Mothers of South Sudan' 
by Richard J. Jones, AFRECS Board Member
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“Enough is enough!” repeated Mother Harriet Baka Nathan, addressing an audience of 27 Sudanese and American friends at Virginia Theological Seminary near Washington, D.C. on March 23.
 
Mother Harriet has been crying “Enough” to government ministers in their offices in the national capital, Juba. She has cried “Enough” to God, shoulder to shoulder with other women in the town squares of Yei and Wau.  Recently, along with Mrs. Joy Kwaje Eluzai, she was addressing “Enough” to the United Nations Commissionon the Status of Women in New York despite a city-stalling snowstorm.
 
Harriet Baka has earned her hearings.  Since the welcome conclusion of a North-South peace accord in 2005, through the breakdown of law and order in 2013 under the Government of South Sudan, she has been speaking and doing. She coördinates the Mothers Union of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan and Sudan, comprised of more than 40 dioceses. This network links Christian women in prayer and service, even in settlements not located on roads, and in camps newly created by the more than 1,600,000 civilians internally displaced and the more than 60,000 who have sought refuge at U.N. peacekeeping bases. Harriet has been a regular visitor to camps on the outskirts of Juba. Against the wishes of her family, she has also accompanied a convoy of 25 tons of food through the territory of undisciplined armed groups to help assure an orderly distribution which would include children, women, the elderly, and the physically disabled.
 
While schools have been disrupted, the ECSS&S Mothers Union has continued to partner with the Church of England Mothers Union to teach literacy. While cholera spread to more counties in 2016 than 2015, the Mothers Union has continued to teach hygiene. While price inflation has distorted the economy, the Mothers Union has partnered with the U.S.-based microfinance organization Five Talents to launch women entrepreneurs into tiny income-producing enterprises to stabilize their households.
 
On the basis of this steady grassroots work, Mother Harriet found a place alongside 200 members of parliament and other women in 2014 to declare “What Women Want”. The Women’s Agenda for Peace and Sustainable Development, with Baka among the signatories, called on the warring leaders of the Government and the Opposition to require 30% representation of women in their promised transitional government and to exclude persons convicted of abuse of office or misuse of public funds. They also demanded special training to enhance the skills of women for senior public offices.
 
At Virginia Seminary Baka was asked about a proposal from a Mothers Union leader in Torit, addressing the recent descent into ethnic antagonism. The leader proposed that babies should be given biblical or neutral names in place of names that display their lineage. Mother Harriet replied, “That mother was speaking out of her own pain.”
 
Baka acknowledged: “We have abandoned the spirit of national solidarity and replaced it with ethnic loyalties.” Citing the example of Saul, called by God to be king over the tribes of ancient Israel in turbulent times, she lamented Saul’s trusting his own strength and the people’s respect, until he succumbed to pride and disobedience. “We need to recognize that leadership is not a right but a privilege.”
 
“We cannot wish any tribe away,” she adds. “South Sudan belongs to all of us.”
 
Mother Harriet departed for her home in Juba March 28. With many expressions of gratitude to God and her partners in prayer, she continues to cry to the vengeful and the ambitious: “Enough!”
 
 
 
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'A Lenten Message'
from Richard Parkins
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Dear Friends and Colleagues,
 
Lent reminds us to be intentional in our prayers for all those who have special needs for God's embrace.  It is also a time when we are called to search our own behavior to see how we as Christians can help extend that embrace.  For those of us in AFRECS, we receive daily reminders of the suffering of our sisters and brothers in Sudan and South Sudan, often accompanied by pleas for prayers and support.  The enormity of the challenge should not deter us from responding.
 
Permit me to offer some suggestions for actions that we might hope for as we ratchet up our prayer life this holy season.
 
1. Let us pray that our friends in both Sudans do not lose hope even as their suffering seems to be relentless.  Some of us were reminded at a conversation with a South Sudanese leader  that hope is our best weapon. 
 
2. Let us pray that a peace process will be reignited as there is seemingly little happening at present that speaks to leaders coming together to change the narrative from one of revenge  to one of peace and reconciliation. 
 
3. Let us pray that leaders of the various faith communities that inhabit both South Sudan and Sudan will come together as robust advocates for peace and reconciliation and urge their members to practice truth telling and forgiveness as key steps toward peace and reconciliation.
 
4. Let us pray that we as friends and partners will not lose hope even as we face challenges that can seem overwhelming.
 
5. Let us pray that we will find ways to be purveyors of hope, reminding ourselves that modest actions committed with great love and in Christ's name can make a difference.
 
6. Let us pray that friends and partners will respond generously to the pleas for help to reverse the prospect of starvation for thousands of South Sudanese.
 
7. Let us pray for those in Sudan and South Sudan who courageously speak out against the intransigence of leaders who will not divest themselves of a quest for power in the face of the unremitting violence that faces their people.
 
8. Let us pray that the victims of the protracted conflicts in both Sudan and South Sudan will find relief from their suffering and know that they are cared for by a loving God and those who work tirelessly to bring them relief and comfort. 
 
May we journey in thought and prayer with our friends in South Sudan and Sudan during this Lenten season and beyond.
 
Faithfully,
Richard 
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Recent News: South Sudan
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The Washington Post: South Sudan's civil war creates a new lost generation. 
This recent article tells the story of many through the eyes of a few refugee children living in the Bidi Bidi refugee settlement camp in northern Uganda. Excerpts follow:
 
Six-year-old Santo proudly wears a Harvard T-shirt as if he has just been accepted into the elite institution, but its warped lettering, layers of dirt and gaping holes say more about the young refugee’s future....
 
Joyce and Florence are two teenage girls in the Bidi Bidi refugee settlement where more than 270,000 people have arrived since July, when fighting erupted again in South Sudan’s capital. Each girl lost her parents during ethnically targeted killings in September. Each found a welcoming foster family. ...When asked why the adults had been fighting back home, Joyce struggled to explain the intricacies of a war that has upended her life. “I don’t know,” she said shyly. ... The two girls are part of a growing population of children left orphaned by the civil war. Roughly 25 percent of the students in the Bidi Bidi settlement are orphans, according to Amanda David, a head teacher at one of the newly created schools. Many live with foster families.
 
PBS Newshour: This recent ten minute report on South Sudan begins at 11' 45" into the broadcast and continues until 22' 06". It details the history of the conflict and shows the current situation in the country where many suffer and approximately five and a half million people (half of the population) face famine. The video includes a displaced person who gives an account of the death of seven members of his family by fire, intentionally set by soldiers. Representatives from the opposing armies, the UN and other refugees are also interviewed to cover the complete story. 
 
Joint statement on behalf of the Government of Uganda and UNHCR: ‘Breaking Point’ imminent: Government of Uganda, UNHCR say help for South Sudan refugee inflow urgently needed.
 
60 Minutes: Fighting Famine in War-Torn South Sudan. This link takes you to the script from the segment that aired recently. Related video is also included.
 
Enough Project Report: How The World's Newest Country Went Awry: South Sudan's war, famine, and potential genocide. Recently published report. Excerpt follows: War has been hell for South Sudan’s people, but it has been very lucrative for the country’s leaders and commercial collaborators, South Sudan’s war profiteers. South Sudan has been torn apart by three wars in the last 60 years. Two and a half to three million people have perished as a result of these wars. This legacy has finally caught up to the world’s newest country, as the United Nations declared a full-blown famine in February 2017, a rare declaration that the U.N. hadn’t made for any part of the world since 2011, and multiple U.N. officials have asserted that South Sudan stands on the brink of genocide. By John Prendergast 
 
Enough Forum: A Way Out? Models for negotiating an exit plan for entrenched leadership in South Sudan. Presented by the Enough Project, the Enough Forum is a platform for dynamic discourse engaging critical issues, challenges, and questions among thought leaders, field researchers, and policy experts. Opinions and statements herein are those of the authors and participants in the forum, and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or policy recommendations of the Enough Project.
 
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Related News from The Anglican Communion
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Anglican Communion News Service: Women 'donate themselves' to help find peace in South Sudan, campaigner tells UN meeting. Coverage of the UN meeting with Mother Harriet Baka Nathan and Mrs. Joy Kwaje Eluzai.
 
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Dear Friends,
Thank you 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.