South Sudanese Church leaders from seven different denominations and seven different states attended the National Council of Churches in Australia’s first national peacebuilding consultation in Canberra on May 15- 16.
I supported Uniting Church South Sudanese representatives Rev. Amel Manyon and Rev. Paul Dau who attended along with South Sudanese representatives from the Anglican, Catholic, Lutheran, Salvation Army, Presbyterian and Baptist Churches.
At the first session we heard the heartbreaking stories from the South Sudanese diaspora, tackling the devastating trauma of war and how they fled from South Sudan for a better life in Australia, and the challenges of settlement.
The stories concluded with a strong commitment to work together for peace and unity within the Australian diaspora community.
After lunch we divided into small groups and dived deeper into six issues:
– Tribal/National loyalties
– Trauma and healing ministry
– Reconciliation and reconciling
– The role of women in peacebuilding
– The role of Church leaders in peace and reconciliation
– Nurturing emerging leaders
We were joined by a delegation from the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
All participants listened and learned from one another with an open mind and heart. This process was much like creating a Space for Grace, where every person can look past their own beliefs and embrace others with very different views.
Rev. Amel Manyon described the consultation as a ‘very important gathering’.
“This is the first time people from different tribes, languages, church traditions and political views have come together to sit, eat, discuss, pray and produce a unified statement,” said Rev. Manyon.
We left the consultation having agreed to four significant affirmations:
1. We are called by faith to love our neighbour (Mark 12:30-31), to forgive our enemies (Mark 11:25), and to be one (John 17:21).
2. We acknowledge the impact of war in giving rise to conflicting loyalties based on tribe, denomination and nationality within South Sudan and within the South Sudanese diaspora in Australia.
3. We resolve to build unity, and model “one people”, within the diaspora in Australia.
4. We long for there to be, and we pray for, peace and unity within the leadership and people of South Sudan based on universal values of good government. This longing focuses our prayers.
It is clear to me that the Holy Spirit was at work among the South Sudanese diaspora in Australia.
This unity gives us hope for the South Sudanese communities who live in South Sudan and in Australia.