AFRECS E-Blast: September 14, 2016
 
Message from  Executive Director, Richard Parkins: 
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In our worship services last Sunday, probably most of us were reminded of the tragic events of fifteen years ago as our nation was plunged into utter sadness because of the unspeakable acts of terror that will always be associated with '9/11'. From that moment forward, many of us in various ways have tried hard to prevent messages of revenge and retaliation from bogging us down in perpetual, unremitting collective anger and recrimination.  That struggle continues as we discovered Sunday when we gathered and heard readings, prayers, and music that spoke of our oneness in God and what we share as members of God's family.  An ingredient of all of this was the notion of forgiveness borne of love, a re-commitment to not let hatred and anger have the last word.  
 
My thoughts drifted to the ongoing conflict in South Sudan where peace seems painfully remote and where the healing that forgiveness brings is so earnestly desired.  South Sudan's most recent conflict has added many fires borne of revenge to the violent legacy that plagues this new country.
 
At an evensong service which marked the fifteenth anniversary of 9/11, the following passage spoke to me as one that might be relevant to understanding what has to happen to foster healing in South Sudan. 
     
         Forgive your neighbor the wrong he has done,
         and then your sins will be pardoned when you pray.
         Does anyone harbor anger against another,
         and expect healing from the Lord ?  (Sirach 28:2-3)
 
 As  conflict dominates life in South Sudan, more persons will be both perpetrators and victims of revenge and thus harbor the anger that feeds revenge.  Scripture such as the above passage from Sirach and the words of Jesus remind us that forgiveness is the precursor to healing.  Without healing, those who are victims remain victims and are likely to express their anger in future acts of  revenge.  This is where the church as the purveyor of Christ's message becomes the indispensable agent of transformation.  If South Sudan is to recover truly from the unremitting violence that has been so much a part of the country's  history, this message must be heard.  Moreover, the horror of the violence that afflicts South Sudan would seem to defy forgiveness, unless we incarnate the kind of forgiveness emanating from the love that Christ calls us to embrace - that is the unconditional love we experience as his followers.  It is only the church and what it embodies in its truest and fullest sense that can bring about the transformation deriving from the practice of forgiveness and love which we are commanded to practice.
  
As we heard in Sunday's epistle reading (1st Timothy 1: 12-17), Paul attributed his redemption from the unworthy person that he considered himself to be into being accepted by a God who could embrace one whom only a loving God could value and use. 
It's that kind of love that those in South Sudan - whose wounds are deep and many - are called upon to extend to their enemies.  We must help the churches there to be the real instruments of healing that foster radical forgiveness.  That kind of forgiveness multiplied many times over can bring about a lasting peace. That's what we ask you to pray for and to support.
 
Faithfully,
 
Richard 


 
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UPDATE on AFRECS Conference
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BUILDING BRIDGES OF RECONCILIATION
Sponsored by
American Friends of the Episcopal Church of the Sudans
October 21-23, 2016
West Des Moines, Iowa
 
 
“We need constructive support from our Sudanese brothers and sisters outside the country as we seek to restore peace and rebuild trust in South Sudan.” 
--     Rev. Peter Gai, Chairman, South Sudan Council of Churches
 
This conference will bring together Sudanese from the Diaspora and from South Sudan with American friends of South Sudan and Sudan to work for peace and reconciliation in the world’s youngest nation.
 
We will ask ourselves:
 
  • Where are the opportunities to support the Diaspora in the USA in its efforts for peace and reconciliation in South Sudan?
  • How can the friendship of Americans contribute to peacemaking in South Sudan and Sudan?
 
You can expect:
 
  • Inspiring stories of how partnerships of South Sudanese and Americans, even during these last thirty months of conflict, are working together for positive outcomes
  • News of South Sudan from African guests
  • Opportunities to meet and work for peace with friends dedicated to building a stable nation in South Sudan.
  • Workshops led by experts with experience in mediation and peace building
  • Learn what the Commission for National Healing, Peace and Reconciliation and the Justice, Peace and Reconciliation Commission are doing to train and enable Peace Mobilizers in South Sudan
  • Hear from Sudanese leaders about their challenges, learnings, and successes as they work to build reconciling congregations in the American Diaspora
  • Learn ways the US government is seeking to build peace, and what the church is doing to speak for peace to governments
 
Distinguished Guests:
 
  • Bishop Samuel Enosa Peni: Diocese of Nzara, South Sudan and Chairperson of the Justice, Peace and Reconciliation Commission of The Episcopal Church in South Sudan and Sudan.
  • Bishop Joseph Garang Atem: Diocese of Renk, South Sudan
  • His Excellency Pa’gan Amum Okiec: former Secretary General of the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement, signer of the Transitional Peace Agreement,  August 2015.
  • Dr. James A. Leach: U. S. Representative, Iowa 1st Congressional
    District, 1977-2007; retired Chairman, National Endowment for the Humanities.
  • Dr. Dane F. Smith; former Senior Advisor in the Office of the US Special Envoy for Darfur, Deputy Chief of Mission in Sudan, and Ambassador to Guinea and Senegal.
  • Mother Harriet Baka Nathan: Provincial Mothers Union Coordinator, South Sudan
  • Rev. Phil Groves, Continuing Indaba Project, Secretariat of the Anglican Communion, London
 
Additional presenters will be added to this list as they are confirmed.
 
Logisitcs:
 
Location: At the Marriott hotel (listed below) and at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul in downtown Des Moines. Transportation will be provided from the hotel and back on Sunday.

Registration: Online at www.afrecs.org or by mail:  AFRECS, PO Box 12026, 3737 Seminary Road, Alexandria, VA 22304 USA.  The conference is scheduled to begin on Friday at noon and close after 10:00 am Sunday Holy Eucharist.
 
Cost:  $100 registration fee covers full attendance.  Meals are included (Friday lunch and dinner; Saturday breakfast, lunch and banquet; Sunday breakfast.)
 
Scholarships: Diaspora attendees, seminarians, and students are automatically granted full scholarship.  Please register and identify yourself as scholarship-eligible to help us plan the meals.  You may make a free-will donation at your discretion.  Any surplus funds at the end of the conference will go to the work of the Justice, Peace and Reconciliation Commission in South Sudan.
 
Air Travel:  Fly to Des Moines International Airport (DSM). For best fares you are urged to book air transportation by August 31. If you fly to DSM and stay at the Marriott Hotel the hotel will provide complimentary transportation to and from the airport.  For best service call the hotel ahead of time and give them your flight information. 
 
Hotel:   West Des Moines Marriott, 1250 Jordan Creek Parkway, West Des Moines, Iowa 50266
                Telephone 515-267-1500
                Conference Rate: $109 (plus tax) per night
                To book at the group rate you may use this link:
Book your group rate for AFRECS Oct 2016
IMPORTANT: To get the special rate, which applies to nights of Oct. 20, 21, &22, you must book no later than Monday, October 3.  You must book on line or by phone directly to the hotel.  You WILL NOT get this rate on a travel website.
 
Logistics Inquiries: AFRECSconference2016@mediacombb.net
 
Program Inquiries: info@afrecs.org
 

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Special Invitation:

TO ALL SOUTH SUDANESE AND SUDANESE

You are invited and encouraged to come to this important conference.

The details of the agenda are still being worked out.  Due to the current unrest it is possible that some of our invited guests from South Sudan may not be able to come but it is important to hear your voice in the discussions about reconciliation and peace.
 
Full scholarship is offered for all South Sudanese and Sudanese to participate.  To attend the conference with scholarship merely complete and mail the registration form by October 3.

In section II of the registration mark that you are from the diaspora and you will be welcomed free of charge.The reason we need you to register is so we can plan to have enough food for everyone that attends.
 
If you are seeing this notice and the registration form is missing you can find all the information about the conference and how to register at www.afrecs.org/annualconference.htm.
 
If you have questions about the conference you can email Ray Gaebler at
AFRECSconference2016@mediacombb.net

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Recent News from South Sudan & Sudan
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The Sentry Report: War Crimes Shouldn't Pay: Stopping the looting and destruction in South Sudan. (9/12/16)
 
PBS NewsHour: South Sudan leaders used chaos of war to loot billions, investigation reveals. (9/12/16)
 
The Guardian: George Clooney-backed report: South Sudan president profits from civil war. (9/12/16)
 
The New York Times: South Sudan Leaders Amass Great Wealth as Nation Suffers, Report Says. (9/12/16)

The Washington Post Op-Ed: George Clooney and John Pendergast: War Crimes Shouldn't Pay in South Sudan. (9/12/16)

The New York Times: US Ambassador 'Outraged' Over South Sudan Harassment. (9/11/16)

The New York Times: South Sudan Activists Say Intimidated for Meeting Diplomats. (9/8/16)
 
UNMISS Terms of Reference; South Sudan Strategic Assessment: From the South Sudan Desk of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). (This outlines the scope of the upcoming OCHA investigation which speaks to the recent and increased violence and lawlessness in South Sudan and the tragedy surrounding the Terrain Hotel Incident.)

 
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Thank you to our readers for your interest, your prayers, and your support.
We invite you to visit our website.
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.