South Sudanese members of the Uniting Church from Brisbane, Adelaide and Melbourne gathered in Melbourne from 22 to 24 September to share their hopes for their home country and for the South Sudanese diaspora living in Australia.
There was much lament about the painful division currently happening in South Sudan. Men and women spoke about how violent conflict has greatly affected the life of their communities and their children.
Second generation South Sudanese members who were part of the conference spoke of their hope about their future involvement in the life of South Sudanese people, here and there.
They also identified other issues:
- The need for unity in South Sudanese diaspora community in the West and in the church (not divided by denominations and tribal backgrounds).
- The need for leadership that can embrace and communicate to all different South Sudanese ethnic groups.
- The need for women to speak out and foster healthy family relationships.
- The need for opportunity and a platform for emerging young leaders in the life of church and community.
It was not easy conversation but people willingly and honestly discussed these issues, showing grace, love and care for one another. Nuer, Dinka and Shilluk sat and ate at the same table. They were also able to pray together.
At the Opening Service on Friday night, Uniting Church President Stuart McMillan powerfully reminded us that Christ’s love compels us (2 Cor 5:14-15). He said: “your community here in Australia shows us, the members of Uniting Church, how to be witnesses to Christ’s love by striving to be a fellowship of reconciliation.”
“First be reconciled” was the theme of the conference and Anglican Bishop Lindsay Urwin led sessions on reconciliation. He shared his story, his relationship and experiences with the Xhosa tribe in South Africa.
At Sunday worship I encouraged people to identify themselves as a new community in Christ who live together in the household of God. Christ has reconciled us, therefore we need to be reconciled with others.
I pray and believe that this conference has given hope for South Sudanese communities who despite of all their differences and painful memories, can reconcile and unite in a new land Australia.