AFRECS E-Blast: July 18, 2017                      View this email in your browser

Keep Hope Alive/ Custodians of Hope
Message from Executive Director, Richard Parkins: 
Dear Friends,
As many of you know, I recently spent a week at a retreat organized by the Friends of St. Benedict.  We met at Bishop's Ranch in northern California.  There is much to share about the retreat but my primary interest is to pass along a special message that emerged from my meditations and prayer time.  This message has helped me to remain hopeful that a sustained peace is achievable for South Sudan. 
A reason for my seeking a retreat experience was to deepen the understanding of what God is calling me to do as I move forward in my work with AFRECS.  Like so many of you, I experience moments of despair as I receive bleak news on a daily basis about what is happening in South Sudan.  The avalanche of such news can contribute to depression and a sense of hopelessness.  As a Christian, hopelessness is not a mood that I can readily embrace.  My time at the retreat was focused on finding a way forward that reinforces a spirit of hopefulness.
We know that there are many people working toward giving South Sudan a sustainable peace.  We recently received a Position Paper on the National Dialogue (see below) from the Episcopal Church of South Sudan (ECSS) and a Pastoral Message of Hope (see below) from the South Sudan Council of Churches (SSCC) that embody much of what most peace advocates would consider to be requirements of such a peace.  We have had direct encounters with brothers and sisters from South Sudan who are proponents of peace and actively pursuing strategies - such as the National Dialogue which focuses on the healing that South Sudan needs if peace is to be realized. 
AFRECS has worked with our friend, Bishop Joseph Gatteck, to bring a modicum of hope to orphans in the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) Protection of Civilians Camp #3 (PoC3). (See below.)  We have an active engagement with the Justice, Peace, and Reconciliation Commission (JPRC) of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan and Sudan (ECSSS) where Bishop Samuel Peni, now serving on the Secretariat of the National Dialogue, is lending his leadership skills to advance a peace building agenda for South Sudan.  What do all of these strands of involvement and those of so many others translate into as we assess our role in aiding peace building in South Sudan?
When I recount our efforts and those of so many others - here in the US, in the UK, and in South Sudan itself - the thought that so often intrudes is that "it is not enough."  The persistence of violence prompts these feelings of inadequacy.  It was this mood that I wanted to overcome as I prayed and reflected at Bishop's Ranch.  The abbot leading our group and the discussion that followed helped me with that ailment.  The mantra that emerged was that we as Christians are holders of hope for others.  I went a bit further in my reflection by suggesting that we are custodians of hope - hope for those who struggle to survive and hope for those who imagine a future where violence is not a normal state of affairs.
In embracing this notion, my intention is not to devalue the good work of so many but rather to extend its value by reminding myself and you, my friends, that all of us are vessels of hope for our sisters and brothers in South Sudan where they find hope to be a very illusive commodity.  If this concept makes sense, it means that even if our work sometimes seems modest, we are also expressing a hopeful posture and attitude that speaks to God's presence in a place where the rays of hope are in very short supply.  We are, as expressed by a noted civil rights leader, keeping hope alive; and that counts for a lot.  Thanks be to God who gives us hope.  We share it in Christ's holy name and preserve it as a resource while the struggle for a sustainable peace continues.  Keeping hope alive also means working to achieve that sustainable peace.  Let us remain hopeful for ourselves and others as we seek to be agents of peace making and custodians of hope for the millions who long for a time when violence shall not be a normal state of affairs.
Church News
Catholic Bishop Paride Taban Kenyi receives honour at Lambeth Palace for establishing the Peace Village.
Position Paper for the Episcopal Church of South Sudan (ECSS) on National Dialogue according to Consultative Meeting held 16th - 18th June 2017 in Juba, South Sudan.
Voice of Hope: Newsletter from Diocese of Kajo-Keji (DKK). See link here or this one, posted on the AFRECS website.
Protection of Civilians Camp #3 Orphans Primary School: three months progress report, posted on the AFRECS website.
Challenges Facing Churches in Kakuma Refugee Camps - Kenya: Presented by Rev. Jacob Nhial Guut, Kakuma Zone One Parish Priest, Episcopal/ Anglican Church of South Sudan, Kakuma, Kenya
Recent News: South Sudan
African Arguments: South Sudan: Will local concerns sink the National Dialogue?
By Julius Nyambur, Research Fellow and Consultant for USIP.
USNews: Reverse Course in South Sudan: International actors are making 5 mortal strategic errors. 
By John Prendergast, opinion contributor.
The New York Times: South Sudan Marks Grim 6th Independence Anniversary
NYTimes: UNICEF Says Three Contractors Detained in South Sudan
NYTimes: Aid Workers Under 'Heavy Fire' Rescued in South Sudan
Medecins Sans Frontieres: South Sudan: MSF strongly condemns the armed robbery of its clinic
NYTimes: US Giving $638M Aid to Yemen, Somalia, Nigeria, South Sudan
The Washington Times: UN considers new base in South Sudan's troubled Yei region
Amnesty International: Research/ South Sudan/ Armed Conflict: Atrocities in Equatoria Region (where Yei is located) turn country's breadbasket into a killing field.
Recent News: Sudan 
Oman Tribune: US delays decision on Sudan sanctions for three months
Sudan Tribune: Sudan's al-Bashir suspends sanctions talks with U.S. Administration
Aljazeera: US delay on sanctions decision leaves Sudanese in limbo FIFA lifts suspension of Sudan Football Association (SFA)
BBC Sport/ Football: Fifa lifts Sudan suspension after government U-turn
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Dear Friends,
Thank you for your interest, your prayers, and your support.
We invite you to visit our Website:
Ellen J. Hanckel
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

* 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:
* 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. 

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