Talking about Peace Building & National Unity in South Sudan with South Sudanese Church Leaders

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On 10.04.2018, we collaborated with the Network of South Sudan Civil Society Organisations in Uganda (NoSSCOU) to organize a roundtable discussion on the role of the South Sudan church leaders in Uganda in promoting peacebuilding and national unity. Various church leaders from South Sudan assembled to critically evaluate, learn and rethink about their work and what they can do to reduce the emotional and psychological impact of the conflict on South Sudanese refugees in Uganda.

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Present were Episcopal Church of South Sudan, Roman Catholic, Pentecostal, Lutheran, Seventh Day Adventists and African Inland Church representatives. Representatives of the South Sudanese Think Tank, The Nexus Fund and Centre for Peace and Justice took part in this event. After a brief introduction about the history of the Church in South Sudan, Bishop Finnish Mullah raised the question, how South Sudanese Church leaders could use their level of influence to create and maintain Peace among South Sudanese living in Uganda. John Aurelio, a South Sudanese Christian Church leader, then gave an overview about the living conditions and the position of the Church in the South Sudanese Conflict. Clement Marring, an Independent South Sudanese Researcher, initiated the Roundtable Discussion by stating the emotional toll of the South Sudan Conflict on South Sudanese in South Sudan and Uganda.

At least four million people have been displaced from their homes and now seeking refuge in Uganda, which needs urgent interventions programs for trauma healing, peace building and reconciliation. He expounded the problems they’re facing in Uganda followed by a discussion on how Ugandans and South Sudanese could achieve a peaceful coexistence by building trust, with the churches acting a as a collective body. To prevent violence in the current refugee camps, the Churches initiated outreach programs to those Camps, offering the training of religious leaders in trauma healing.

Tito Anthony from the Center for Peace and Justice introduced the problem of hate and dangerous speach and pointed out, that freedom of speech does not give anyone the right to use verbal violence, preach hate or insult others. Dangerous speech increases the risk of violence as it can be used as a very powerful tool for religious leaders to promote hate and distrust between people. Dr. Magara from Ugandan Intercessors gave an outline about the history of Ugandan Churches’ involvement in peacebuilding measures. Church leaders should reach out to local politicians in order to enhance the dialogue between Churches and government. To contribute to this aim, Churches provide an active training program to train people in good leadership.

Tito Anthony then presented the problems of hate and dangerous speech, practices that increase the risk of violence and made aware about the hazards resulting from hate speeches done by religious leaders. His intention was to arouse awareness about the fact that dangerous as well as hate speech is promoted trough different mediums such as online postings or videos, as well as slogans or music media. Bishop Mula, founder of ARFPI, a civil society entity, wrapped up the discussion appealing to all Churches to promote understanding for all religions in order to achieve and maintain Peace and Unity between all Religions and all ethnic groups residing in South Sudan. To ensure future cooperation between the Churches of South Sudan, the participants of the Conference founded a Committee they named Network of South Sudan Churches in Uganda, which is set to build a constitution in a general assembly they are yet to call for. The Committee is in charge of finding new ways of founding to support religious leaders in South Sudan. The Network, composed of seven religious leaders, has also planned to found an advisory board whose task will be determining, on which areas the constitutions should form on.

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Uganda, April 11, 2018