Photo Credit: Diocese of Kajo-Keji
Anglicans in the Episcopal Church of South Sudan’s Diocese of Kajo-Keji are praying about a return to South Sudan, after operating in exile in Ugandan refugee camps for a number of years. But the Bishop of the Diocese, Emmanuel Murye, says that past experience of failed peace initiatives is creating doubt in the minds of the exiled.
“Many South Sudanese in the refugee camps are overwhelmed with the news regarding the long awaited peace,” Bishop Emmanuel said. “They thank God for the ongoing peace talks and pray to God for final signing of permanent peace so that they can go home.
“Others have mixed fillings as to whether what was signed in Khartoum will lead to the permanent peace! These doubts arise due to bad memories of the past. In our pastoral visits we do encourage the refugees to have faith and hope and continue to pray so that we can go and rebuild our nation which has been so damaged by the war.”
Writing in the latest edition of Voice of Hope, the Diocesan newsletter, Bishop Emmanuel said: “This is a moment of reflection and preparation of our minds and hearts. Though we are a multi–tribal nation, we are one in Christ. This means justice for all people in South Sudan and using resources equitably.
“This can only be done through peace building, reconciling broken hearts through trauma healing sessions, forgiveness and reconciliation.”
In an email message, a spokesperson for the diocese said: “Above all, at this time, we would ask for your prayers for peace.” Echoing earlier words from the Archbishop of South Sudan, Justin Badi Arama, the spokesperson said: “It is one thing the paper peace being signed by the ‘big leaders’ – it is another spreading the words of peace, reconciliation and forgiveness at ‘grass roots’ level.
“There are still occasional incidents, and violence can easily erupt. But more and more people are returning to their homes, cultivating crops and carrying out repairs.
“Please pray for the Diocese that wise decisions will be made regarding any plans to return, and for funding to enable the rebuilding of the premises. But more importantly please pray for the rebuilding of people’s lives in South Sudan.”
In his message, Bishop Emmanuel thanked people and organisations that had supported the diocese during its exile. “Our partners have contributed a lot towards developing the future of South Sudan,” he said. “It is not easy to spend money on people you have not seen and do not know, but due to the Lord’s compassion, a good number of partners have supported us in the areas of education, trauma healing workshops, empowerment for drop out school girls, community vocational skill training, vegetable growing, emergency relief to the IDP and returnees in Kajo-Keji, theological education, discipleship, community managed micro- finance (CMMF).
“Your resources have contributed to the development of South Sudan as all these skills are going to be utilised in different parts of South Sudan when the beneficiaries return.”
At the weekend, South Sudan’s main opposition leader, Dr Riek Machar, rejected an invitation from President Salva Kiir to visit the capital Juba. The invitation, thought to be a confidence-boosting measure ahead of the implementation of the peace accord, was rejected by Machar on the grounds of security. He said he would return to Juba once a 4,000-strong regional force is deployed in the city, as outlined in the peace agreement.