Role Of Church In Conflict & Nation Building In South Sudan.

"The Church has been able to provide individual and group counselling to IDPs and refugees within South Sudan and the neighbouring countries respectively."

By Rev Deng Bol

The Church has played a significant role in managing the recent phase of conflict which broke out in 2013 in South Sudan. Here are some of the activities the Church has been able to do:

1) Protection of Civilians: Apart from the UNMISS Protection of Civilians (POC) sites, the other place where civilians run to, when there is armed conflict in South Sudan, is the Church, even though they know the Pastor does not have a machine gun. This has happened in many parts of South Sudan including Juba, Wau, Malakal, Bor etc.

Apart from Bor and Bentiu, where civilians were killed in a Church and Mosque respectively, civilians who ran to Churches in other parts of the country have largely been safe.

In 2017, the Episcopal Church of South Sudan (ECSS) Diocese of Wau hosted over 5000 Internally Displaced People (IDPs) at Good Shepard Cathedral Compound in Wau town. The IDPs were displaced by the conflict between Government soldiers and opposition forces allied to former 1st Vice President Dr Riek Machar in Southern part of Wau.

2) Provision of Emergency Relief: Through contributions from members, her international partners or through it's Relief and Development wings supported by International Non-Governmental Organizations (INGOs), the Church has been able to provide Relief Assistant to vulnerable communities within the Church premises, IDPs and refugee camps and even in the villages.

In Wau, we provided Relief for the IDPs for 15 days while NGOs were still carrying out an assessment of how many IDPs were there, how many were males and how many were females, how many were children. They were also busy assessing the number of boys and girls displaced, the number of women raped, what caused the displacement etc.

And even when the NGOs eventually started providing relief to the IDPs, we still continued supporting the most vulnerable groups among the IDPs. These included lactating mothers, expecting mothers, orphans and children who had been separated from their parents by the fighting, plus the elderly and people with disabilities.

3) Trauma Healing Counselling: The Church has been able to provide individual and group counselling to IDPs and refugees within South Sudan and the neighbouring countries respectively. In Wau, we were able to provide an individualized counselling and a group counselling as well as preaching messages of live and hope from the word of God in the evening when the IDPs were settled back in their places. We also organized trauma healing workshops and many other stress reduction activities.

4) Reconciliation: The church has been working for reconciliation and peaceful co-existence among the IDPs, the refugees and all our communities through Neutral forums/dialogue. In Wau, there was a very high tension between members of the Luo community and the Dinka community in the camp. But together with the Chiefs from the two communities, led by the Paramount Chief William Deng Kuol, we were able to reconcile the two communities and they were able to live together peacefully in the camp till today.

5) Advocacy: The Church has been able to advocate on behalf of IDPs and Refugees and all vulnerable communities internally and externally to ensure that their rights are protected, their voices are heard and actions are taken by the relevant authorities to alleviate their suffering.

In The Gospel according to St Luke 4:18-19, Jesus proclaimed his Mission statement as follows: “18: The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free. 19: to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”

It is therefore the responsibility of the Church to continue with this mission as agent of Christ. God bless South Sudan.

 

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