In this fifth article in our series of features looking at the Anglican Communion’s Five Marks of Mission, Kate Brankin, the International Coordinator for the Office of the Primate in South Sudan, looks at that church’s approach to the fourth Mark of Mission: To transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and pursue peace and reconciliation.
The Episcopal Church of South Sudan (ECSS) is involved in the process of peace making and peace building. ECSS has a unique place in that it has dioceses and parishes throughout the country. It uses mission and evangelism to reach different communities, telling them how important peace and reconciliation is so that the communities see themselves as brothers and sisters in a family of God.
The archbishop, bishops and priests regularly preach during Sunday services on peace and reconciliation, as well as conducting community meetings to share messages of peace. As a respected institution in the community, ECSS is often asked to partake in community reconciliation initiatives. It visits the internally displaced and refugee camps to encourage and give hope to the people living there.
The church is using its departments, like the Justice, Peace and Reconciliation department, to reconcile the communities that have been affected by the war. This office makes efforts to aid in the reconciliation of different community groups by bringing communities together to educate, dialogue, and reconcile them. The church has also played an active role in disseminating the details of the revitalised peace agreement amongst different groups of people, such as the youth, women and intellectuals, throughout the country. Where communities and politicians are divided, people turn to the church to provide an impartial voice that helps to reconcile communities, and even parties, to the conflict.
Sometimes the ECSS works, with other Christian denominations under the umbrella of South Sudan Council of Churches (SSCC) in reconciling political leaders. An example of this is when the leaders were taken for a retreat at the Vatican to build trust. Some political parties that have sharp divisions amongst themselves have also been brought together in an attempt to reunite them.
The Primate of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan, Archbishop Justin Badi Arama, has been involved in peace talks on behalf of South Sudan Council of Churches. He is able to meet with political leaders to speak on behalf of the South Sudanese people – both within and outside the country. These meetings also provide an opportunity to pray with the leaders of the country, that they may hear and respond to the will of the Lord.
The church have schools and colleges where Christian values are taught. As children share with their parents the things they've heard at school, whole families can be influenced in the way of peace.
The Episcopal Church of South Sudan also works with other Christian mission agencies and organisations that deal with peace building and healing. Examples of such are Flame International that have an ongoing programme with the Army Chaplains. With the help of the church they travel to different areas within South Sudan to conduct healing workshops and teaching in their barracks and sometimes they bring the chaplains to a church and train them to go back and teach others.
SOMA UK is another example of a mission agency that has been working with the ECSS in helping to equip the youth so that they are not misled by the different warring parties and are able to do something productive with their lives.
The church works through the Mothers’ Union to create awareness and educate women to engage in peace building and to speak against gender based violence and rape. The Mothers’ Union also reiterate the message of the church against child marriage, to enable more girls to stay in school and get a good education.
The Episcopal Church of South Sudan has a relief and developmental wing that works to transform the lives of those left devastated by the unjust results of war.
Read the rest of our series on the Five Marks of Mission