South Sudan church leaders have requested Christians around the world to join them in a time of prayer for peace in their nation on this Saturday, Feb. 6, from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. The request is being shared with the Church of the Brethren by members of a delegation that recently visited South Sudan and met with church leaders there.
South Sudan has experienced nearly continuous war since 1955. Although a peace accord was signed between North Sudan and South Sudan in 2005, the people of South Sudan have continued to suffer under ineffective South Sudanese government, lingering military engagement with North Sudan, and tribal conflicts.
“Malέ?” the Nuer greeting of “peace” filled the air as I reconnected with Nuer people of the Mayom/Bentiu area of South Sudan after 34 years. What a joyous occasion to again see these friends and to be able to introduce them to Jay Wittmeyer on our recent trip to South Sudan. This meeting confirmed the importance of the presence of the Church of the Brethren personnel from the 1980s to the present as we worked on issues of development and peace.
A number of international guests are to be welcomed at this year’s Annual Conference of the Church of the Brethren, which takes places July 2-6 in Columbus, Ohio. Guests are expected from Nigeria, Brazil, and India. Global Mission and Service workers also will be attending from Nigeria, South Sudan, Haiti, and Honduras.
Brethren Disaster Ministries has directed an allocation of $15,000 from the Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF) to aid displaced people in South Sudan. Fighting that began in Dec. 2013 has resulted in the displacement of more than 200,000 people in South Sudan.
“We’re actively purchasing supplies for distribution to refugees” in South Sudan, reports Jay Wittmeyer, executive director of Global Mission and Service for the Church of the Brethren. One of three Brethren mission workers remains in South Sudan, while two have left the country, after violence broke out shortly before Christmas. The violence is linked to a coup attempt by a recently deposed vice president, and fears of the exacerbation of ethnic tensions in the nation.
Staff of Brethren Disaster Ministries and Global Mission and Service have offered support to South Sudanese villagers affected by a recent fire, through a grant from the denomination’s Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF). Other recent disaster relief grants have gone to Church World Service work at a refugee camp in Thailand, and areas of southern states in the US affected by recent storms.
Although South Sudan is a new country, decades of war have left traumatic scars that today manifest themselves in re-occurring clashes, conflicts, and challenges, which all witness to the need for relevant, practical, and sustainable peace efforts in the country.
A new volunteer has begun serving in South Sudan on behalf of the Church of the Brethren, and two new staff soon will arrive in Nigeria. The three are program volunteers for the denomination’s Global Mission and Service office, and will work as seconded staff for Sudanese and Nigerian organizations respectively.
Athanasus Ungang and Jillian Foerster have begun work in South Sudan on behalf of the Church of the Brethren. Both have been placed with ecumenical partners, with sponsorship from the denomination’s Global Mission and Service program.