Beneath South Sudan’s exterior of conflict exists a people of
strength, faith & perseverance, our people.
We are survivors with dreams of what our nation’s future can be.
However there are times we feel our nation is cursed.
In desperation, we cry out to the Lord because we know there is hope.
Throughout this season we ask you to A’minu Ma Nina, Hope With Us.
My name is Regina and I am a teacher, not by training but by experience, having put in over 20 years of teaching both in primary and secondary school levels. I was born in the southern part of Sudan and moved to Uganda in the 80s during the first war of liberation. It was a blessing in disguise in that their system allowed me to complete pre-university levels (S5-S6) which were not available to me in Sudan.
In 2010 I returned to southern Sudan married with children and jobless. Thankfully after submitting an application to teach at Harvesters, they hired me and I’ve been working with them ever since. In 2011 a peace agreement was reached, which ultimately culminated into the independent declaration for the newest country in the world, South Sudan. It was all happiness but that was to last only a matter of years before everything started moving backwards.
Long story short, I want to say that in recalling the life I lived before working at Harvesters as being a testimony that there is a hell. Today, however, I have managed to educate my children through to college courtesy of the God-given salary I earn from Harvesters. My children have attended EPC-Nehemiah Secondary school where all Harvesters orphanage children have studied from which is a prestige in itself.
Unfortunately when war broke out in the state nearly three years ago, schools closed down as people were forced to run for their lives and either go into exile or return to their mother country. While Harvesters had some teachers and kids leave the area, Mr. Mourice sacrificed his own safety and stayed to care for the orphans who had nowhere to go, which kept us around too with the school operational. And while internally people keep getting displaced, God is with us and the presence of Harvesters has continued to present us with hope.Read More
Regina’s message only hints at the difficulty of her circumstances and what it’s like to continue to live and work in South Sudan today. With the constant threat of violence, rampant inflation putting most of life’s basic necessities out of reach and uncertainty about the future, the crucial role of teachers and their impact on children is highlighted more than ever.
In the following poem written by sixteen-year-old teacher Aindrila, she portrays a story of an uneducated individual who assails into darkness, numbness, and gloom. She finds guile everywhere and no innocence. As her poem reads on, hope transcends the darkness through education as a teacher illuminates her student’s mind, once dark, with knowledge that brings with it light and hope for their lives.
Teacher, The Panacea
Why is there darkness all around?
Why with numbness am I bound?
O gloom! How savage is your presence!
Why is there guile and no innocence?
My soul yearns for light.
Oh Lord! Let my soul burn bright.
Give unto me knowledge, wisdom, and a goal.
Light a flame, illuminate my soul.
“Divine Being!” said the Father.
“Education is the fire
that takes you higher.
Teacher is the being
who illuminates your being.”
Thanks to the unswerving dedication of teachers like Regina, children in South Sudan have an opportunity to learn from Christ-centered instruction, develop leadership skills and change the expectations for their future, impacting their country for generations.
© Aindrila Chakraborty
Published: May 4, 2018 Source: https://www.familyfriendpoems.com/poem/teacher-the-panacea
Author: Martin the Security Guard
Hi my name is Martin and I’ve been working as a security guard on Harvesters’ Yei Campus for several years now. As a guard, I take care of people. People can be afraid. So, I watch out carefully and try to be strong so others won’t fear.
Things here in South Sudan are bad. I often think to myself – When is it my time to die? Since things here are so unpredictable, it makes it really difficult to make decisions. For example, this past fall I planted my garden 5 miles in the bush, but now I can’t go and harvest my garden because it’s too dangerous to get there. I know my not being there will lead other people to take my harvest for themselves. I guess they needed it more than my family.
Living in these unsafe times I have experienced firsthand the protection of the Lord. One night a group of men came to our village and killed people. At the time I was holding a baby, so these men didn’t kill me even though they argued over it. Instead, they told me not to leave home. So I still live there, even though it is dangerous because if I relocate, they’ll think I’ve told on them. It is a tough place to be and makes me pray every day, asking God to protect my family each night before we go to bed.
I hope God will hear the prayer of our people for peace so people can live in unity under one nation. Peace after all determines whether schools are open to teach, jobs are available to work, and hospitals are able to operate. Even our travel on roads is dependent on peace. Will you please pray for God to work in our hearts helping us become a nation of reconciliation so there will be no need to fear anymore?Read More
There are a lot of individuals like Harvesters’ security guard Martin, doing what they can, day by day, to bring some sense of stability to themselves, their family, and their community. They do so by showing up for work and using their gifts to make a difference.
They teach students. They care for the young. They care for the sick. They comfort. They protect. They rally. They preach peace, forgiveness, and reconciliation.
It is not easy for them to make this choice to show up and work, especially considering the clear and present dangers of doing that. But for these individuals it’s a means of survival and a means to break the cycle. It takes one, two, three, and more who choose this path to help counter the many who take to fighting a senseless war. These internal conflicts after all see no victories.
While there are no statistics currently representing employment in South Sudan, there are examples of those who are currently employed and working today. The organization Harvesters Reaching the Nations, which has been operating in South Sudan for nearly 17 years, continues operating two orphanages, two Primary Schools and two churches collectively in Terekeka and Yei. As of this writing, they currently employ 116 South Sudanese staff including administrators, housemothers, nurses, laborers, teachers and pastors. This number has decreased slightly since the fall of 2016 because of the insecurity that’s been occurring in the Yei area, but nevertheless there are South Sudanese who chose to stay.
Each native South Sudanese who has chosen to stay and work is investing in their country’s future. And while the economy, or lack thereof, doesn’t currently reflect these efforts…it’s these same efforts that will play a pivotal role in healing a nation ravaged by war and rebuilding it into something that can flourish one day.
For now though, they teach students. They care for the young. They care for the sick. They comfort. They protect. They rally. They preach peace, forgiveness, and reconciliation. They survive.Read More
Author: Michael Yemba
My name is Michael Yemba and I was born and raised in what is now South Sudan. In 1993 my beautiful wife Rose and I married and began our life together in the Middle East. Unfortunately, one of the darkest times of my life happened there when I was arrested and imprisoned for my Christian beliefs. Facing certain death, God intervened through former United States Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Robert Jordan (pictured above). Ambassador Jordan saved my life by interceding with authorities, obtaining my release and arranging for me to come to the US. Here, I’ve received pastoral training and a Masters in Global Missions & Evangelism so that I can preach the Gospel to the lost and help equip leaders in my home country.
As I write now, the suffering of my people rages high. The state of South Sudan is one of gloom, and even though I’m no longer living there it affects me deeply and personally. I feel pain in my heart seeing the destruction of the blessings God has given us, but I continue to hope that the heart of my home country becomes a heart after Jesus Christ and values the importance of God in their lives.
This July marks the 6th anniversary of South Sudan’s independence, and it is my prayer for people to continue to invest in the gospel teaching and preaching of Jesus Christ because it is the only way to be delivered out of darkness, I know.
While my wife and I would like to return to a restored South Sudan one day, for now I will continue preaching at my church, working at EmpowerOne, and serving on the Board of Trustees at Harvesters to make a difference for my home country.Read More
“You saved my life” are heartfelt words Michael Yemba shared with former United States Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Robert Jordan. Their story began before their first meeting. Years before, Yemba’s stepfather, a Christian leader (in Muslim Sudan) and his mother were forcibly taken from their home and shot to death. Yemba escaped to Saudi Arabia, starting him on his journey to cross paths with Ambassador Jordan.
Yemba worked in Saudi Arabia in hotel security in the late 90s. He was a man of deep Christian faith who held religious services in his home in Riyadh. These types of services were allowed as long as they were held privately according to Ambassador Jordan, yet for unknown reasons the Saudi religious police burst into Yemba’s home and forced him into prison. Serving months in solitary confinement, he was never charged with a crime. A friend of Ambassador Jordan approached him with the story of Yemba and the concerning plan that he would be released from prison but not allowed to stay in Saudi Arabia. Instead they were going to deport him back to Sudan where he was certain to face death as a result of the earlier persecution of his family.
Ambassador Jordan’s friend implored him to intervene on Yemba’s behalf. It’s unusual, to say the least, for an American ambassador to intervene on behalf of a non-US citizen. “But Michael touched my heart” Ambassador Jordan writes in his book. “No one from Sudan, or anywhere else, was going to save him. I knew it was up to me to find a solution to avoid sending him back to a death sentence.” Through his position, Ambassador Jordan asked a favor of a high ranking Saudi cabinet minister and prince. That favor was for a 30-day delay of Yemba’s deportation so that arrangements could be made for him to come to the US with his wife. This favor was granted through the long-standing relationship Ambassador Jordan had with the Prince. Through contacts with the State Department, Ambassador Jordan secured a visa for temporary religious workers for Yemba. Further connections were made with a seminary in Pennsylvania so that Yemba and his wife could relocate to the US. Yemba completed his divinity degree, obtained his Master’s and relocated to Dallas where today he pastors a church, serves as Director of Strategic Leadership Opportunities at Empower One and as a member of the Board of Trustees of Harvesters Reaching the Nations.
Quotes above are from Robert Jordan’s book, Desert Diplomat: Inside Saudi Arabia Following 9/11. (Potomac Books, 2015). For more details on Yemba’s story and others read Ambassador Jordan’s book, Desert Diplomat: Inside Saudi Arabia Following 9/11.Read More
Author: Agnes Alex
My name is Agnes Tumalu Alex and I work as the nurse on Harvesters’ Terekeka campus.
Since South Sudan’s independence, our country has been handicapped by the competing interests of powerful political actors and the factions and interests they represent – which has made many people, including me, face either crisis or emergency levels of insecurity.
This past year I had to relocate from Yei town to Terekeka because it became unsafe for me to stay in Yei. While it wasn’t easy for me to leave my home, I know God has a purpose in having me in Terekeka right now so I can be a nurse to the children and others in need here.
I truly thank God for this calling He has placed on my heart. As a nurse, I get to be a responsible member of the community caring for the sick no matter what their race, tribe, color, politics, or social status, sparing no effort to conserve life, alleviating pain, and promoting health.
Despite what is going on in my country, I remain hopeful on several levels. Here are just a few of the things I’m hopeful for…professionally I’d like to improve upon my nursing skills so I can further help the people of South Sudan, especially orphans. Personally, I hope and pray to see my parents again, who as of now are living in the Congo (DRC) because of the war. But ultimately I’m hoping for peace to break the cycle of destruction this nation has been in for decades.
In my hoping for these things, we South Sudanese need your prayers. As Christians we know prayer is the key to having hearts opened to love each other. So please pray with us that the people in South Sudan choose to exchange their guns for Bibles and recognize that lasting peace will only come about through acts of forgiveness and reconciliation.Read More
For the South Sudanese, the journey of life has been marked by long stretches of violence, deprivation, and desperation with only occasional glimmers of peace peeking through for short periods of time. Yet in something that is so easily overlooked, God’s hope is reaffirmed. Each day as the rays of sunshine push back the darkness of night, His mercies are made new to us as the prophet Jeremiah notes. Each dawn brings with it renewed hope. Two thousand years ago, there was a dawn that broke the darkness once and for all so that we might never again have to live in fear. As Jesus’ followers cowered in the darkness of an upper room, hope was in short supply and one can only imagine the thick despair that weighed on them that Friday night and Saturday. And then, Sunday dawned. The stone was rolled away, the Savior risen from the grave and the disciples, indeed the world, forever changed. Shaken from their grief, they embark on a mission to spread the good news of Jesus’ resurrection to the ends of the earth, a mission we are now a part of. All because of a new dawn so many years ago.
Agnes and her many fellow South Sudanese look expectantly for a new dawn of peace. Their hope is strained, stretched, and at times appears illogical. They continue to lack security, basic comforts, and opportunities that we in America can so easily take for granted. South Sudan is a difficult place but the faith of its believers is daily made resilient by their Lord who cannot and will not forsake them. Indeed as Paul says in Romans 8, nothing can separate them from His love. We do not know when or even if peace will return to South Sudan during our lifetimes. What is known is that the story of Easter, the message of the gospel, of Jesus’ resurrection and gift of salvation to all who believe, is the only means of obtaining lasting peace. Our South Sudanese brothers and sisters cling to this message faithfully. They find renewed hope each day in the Prince of Peace and call on all those who will listen to heed the message of the gospel of peace.
So join with Agnes and her fellow believers in South Sudan in clinging to the words of Paul, words written from a prison cell, as he writes, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7).Read More
Author: David Gama
My name is David Gama and I am an alumni of Harvesters’ Primary School and Hannah Scholarship Program. Through these programs, I was afforded the opportunity to attend university and graduate with a degree in Community Health in 2015.
In July 2016, I left my home town of Yei for Juba to visit with my relatives after nearly four years of living apart. During my short visit, my plan was to tour the city and enjoy the little signs of developmental progress being made. Little did I know that the devil was acutely at work.
On the evening of July 8th, as we were riding home with my elder brother along a popular street, I noticed it was heavily guarded by young men. Little did I know that 15 minutes after we passed from that section of the road, more than 100 of those young men would be lying dead. Likewise, a number of civilians passing along the same route were killed as the fight raged on. Only God knows what would have happened to us if we had delayed our return for just a few minutes.
As it turns out, the ripple effects of this same incident reached every corner of our beloved country and forced many of my friends and relatives to leave for refugee camps in search of a peaceful place to stay. As many have left the country, some remained in the country including myself despite the crippling economy, increasing insecurity, and worsening humanitarian situation. With God being our only hope, we are and will continue serving in the various areas of our gifting to help those that need it most. As such we ask all friends and well-wishers to keep on hoping with us that soon this will come to an end and we will celebrate and live in harmony. Also, my humble appeal to friends and well-wishers across the world is to keep on praying with us that our leaders will come to know Christ and lead as He would do so. God bless South Sudan!Read More
“Being forced to flee your home doesn’t just mean losing the roof over your head. It’s about losing your connection to your family, to your source of income (your fields, your place of work), it’s about losing access to the network of people around you who you would normally turn to in times of hardship… Once you have fled immediate danger, you may still experience discrimination and further abuse. These are some of the factors which make displaced populations particularly vulnerable.” – United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Rhetoric we read in the news often tends to dehumanize people who are “displaced”. But they are real and they are defenseless. The vast majority of them are women and children. They can no longer live in their homes. They have been exiled, banished, ousted and disposed of due to the horrific conditions in the communities where they lived. Today that is happening to 3.4 million South Sudanese men, women and children.
1.9 million “internally displaced” South Sudanese have not crossed a border to find safety. Unlike refugees, they are on the run at home. Many remain close to, or have become trapped in, zones of conflict. They risk being caught in the crossfire. They also risk experiencing hatred, revenge attacks and violence. They are among the most helpless people in the world.
1.5 million “refugees” have fled South Sudan to neighboring countries. The majority are living in camps or resettlement centers. While living conditions are often challenging, today’s refugees do receive food, basic shelter, medical supplies and logistical support. Their security is greatly improved over those who remain in-country as they are further away from the violence which forced them to leave their homes. The UN has found that those who don’t seek shelter in camps either take refuge with host families and communities or they move to cities where they blend into impoverished urban zones. Whichever route they go, these are people who have fled their homes and left all of their support structures behind, often having extensive needs that are hard to trace.
We are called on as Christians to care for these people. Children who are left orphaned, separated from their parents, homeless and severely traumatized. Women who are invisible to the world, desperate to care for their children but at risk of violence. Men who are unable to provide for their families; many who were distinguished at home but are now defenseless. Every one of them has a story, a hope, and a dream.
Will you join us today in praying for them?
“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.” – 2 Corinthians 4:8-11Read More
Author: John “Autohealer” Loki
My name is John “AutoHealer” Loki and I’d like to share some of my feelings with you regarding the current situation in South Sudan…
Every day when I think of South Sudan, it hurts. I thought our parents fought and that we’d be the generation to enjoy South Sudan, but to my surprise people are still picking up guns and fighting.
This past year I lost contact with my family at one point. Fortunately I was able to connect by phone with one of my brothers whom I learned had left his home and 3 children to live in the bush. This is what he said when we last spoke, “I worry about my family, I don’t know when this war and ethnic conflict will stop.”
My brother continued on sharing about the shocking realities of living in the bush. He proceeded to end our talk by saying to me “I thank God for Harvesters and their support for you in your schooling, glad you got to go to school… Study hard and we hope to see you if we can.” I absolutely lost hope when we hung up that day.
As I approach my 26th birthday this March, I’m reminded to live day by day. Having one brother in the bush and another having recently passed I know I cannot squander the opportunities God has given me. I’m fortunate right now to be able to continue with schooling for mechanical engineering, of which I am skilled. I chose the nickname “AutoHealer” because once I complete school my hope is to be able to repair and bring things back to it’s normal way of operation – which there is much need for in South Sudan.Read More
Social, economic, and political realities are so fragile in South Sudan that education remains of profound importance. For the last decade, South Sudan has seen significantly increasing school enrollments, yet its institutions are still being formed and transformed. Among its many challenges are a concentration of students in the early grades; a high proportion of overage students, repetition, and dropout, and weak levels of student learning. Faced with an adult literacy rate of just 27%, it is imperative that education opportunities in South Sudan strengthen and grow at the Primary and Secondary School levels.
The advantages of a Primary School (Elementary) education are clear. Currently, just 40% of children who are eligible attend primary school. Only about 1/3 of those complete their primary education. Additional and smaller classrooms in permanent buildings, improved curriculum, and further teacher training all will contribute to improving these rates.
For employment prospects, completing Secondary School (High School) is a distinct advantage. It is a general degree useful across all employment sectors, and is understood as a constant valuable currency in an economy that is developing and erratic. Yet the country is facing many challenges here. Only 2.4% of eligible students are enrolled in secondary school. The drop-out rate is significant, ranging from 18-33% depending on the grade.
The subject matter of education is crucial for people to survive in South Sudan. Besides the traditional secondary curriculum, practical learning in the areas of agriculture, automotive repair, building trades, tailoring, etc. are all valuable. Those employment sectors are more stable in South Sudan. Also, in the erratic economy that currently exists, many of the skills the people acquire in these areas will keep them alive. When one cannot count on a market, grocery store, or hardware/repair business operating over a period of time, one relies on those skills learned in school like growing food, making clothes, and repairing necessity-type items to survive in tough times such as these.
Despite the uncertainty and what appears to be overwhelming challenges of reaching quality educational goals, we see a nation thirsty for spiritual growth and learning. Education is key to providing a secure future for South Sudan.Read More
Author: James Bond Michael
My name is James Michael and I want to share with you my story. I have lived in desperation. My mom died during child labor when I was 6 years old because there were no maternal hospitals at the time, and my dad died with a strange illness which caused him to lose weight til his death a year before my mom died. It was terrible for me and my two siblings. My grandma took us in. Life was not easy for me. I ate leaves and some wild fruits for food. I wore just underwear for many months because I lacked clothes, and I slept on the floor of our tukul (hut) where ants would bite me throughout the night. On many occasions I nearly died because no one could take me to the hospital.
During this period I never attended school. Luckily, I was brought to Harvesters Orphanage where life dramatically changed for the better. I can proudly say I am a 2nd year law student at one of Africa’s best universities. All the difficulties I went through didn’t affect my study, but strengthened my faith to study harder. People often say orphans are “nobodies” and do not succeed in life, and as such we are marginalized for being what we are by our culture (it’s not what we chose for ourselves). But I persist to study hard and excel in school, because I believe I can be a part of the solution in my country.
You can do so by clicking the button below and emailing him a message that we will share with him.
Nelson Mandela said “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
Picture this…you live where people survive on less than a dollar per day, where there’s the lowest adult literacy rate in the world at 27%, where only 1/3 of children who enroll in primary school will complete school, where 1 in 7 women have a risk of dying in pregnancy or childbirth, and where 1 of 9 children will die before they reach the age of five. This is South Sudan. It’s the newest nation in the world as of 2012, and despite decades of civil war and ongoing unrest, there’s still hope.
This hope comes from the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and the opportunity for education. But hope often brings with it work to be done. The health care and educational systems, as well as many other segments of society, were decimated during years of conflict. Significant rebuilding efforts are needed which entail an educated and skilled workforce.
To build this workforce so that people are lifted out of poverty and have a chance to improve their lives requires the basics – an opportunity for education. Only 37% of the population above the age of six has ever attended school. Only 44% of children are enrolled in primary school and only 1.6% attend secondary school. Children living in rural areas (like Terekeka) suffer the most – 58% are not enrolled in school. And these numbers are all prior to the most recent conflict which caused many schools to close.
The opportunity is there. Young people are hungry for the word of Christ and an education so they can serve as the future leaders of South Sudan. Leaders who can occupy highly visible political positions or serve as the heads of businesses and locally in their churches, hospitals, schools, small businesses, and independent farms and in their families. They are the future of South Sudan. They are the change the country so desperately needs.
We hope with them and pray for this opportunity and for peace.
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. – 2 Peter 1:3-8
Author: Ps. Hillary Kenyi
My name is Pastor Hillary and I want to share with you a story of a fellow South Sudanese man (belonging to tribe “Y”), who witnessed his elder brother being killed by the members of tribe “Z”. He grew up with bitterness in mind and a feeling of revenge. Any time he’d see a “Z” tribe member it would set his blood on fire. But God called this man to be a shepherd. So he went on to graduate from theological school and start and pastor a church. However, the bitterness in him remained unchanged as he refused to let go the past.
In 2013, after only a year and a half of independence, another civil war broke out between the “Y” and “Z” tribes, which was marked by targeted killing. During this time God led six “Z” brothers seeking refuge inside this pastor’s fence. Here marks the beginning of his turning point. Faced with the ultimate dilemma of seeking vengeance for his brother’s death or offering these men refuge, he had no choice but to choose. The pastor chose to sacrifice his bitterness and offer protection to help secure the lives of the six “Z” brothers seeking refuge.
Today as I share with you, this Pastor has good number of “Z” converts in the church. This man chose to be a part of the solution rather than create more problems for our country. I value this example because in my homeland of South Sudan, we need this kind of heart to bring back the fractured relationships caused by senseless wars.
You can do so by clicking the button below and emailing him a message that we will share with him.
When South Sudan declared its independence on July 9, 2011, hope soared and for once, the roughly 60 tribes that make up this country put forth a unified front in creating a new nation. And yet, despite the extraordinary milestone, it would prove impossible for the deep wounds and traumas of the past decades to be erased with the simple casting of votes. South Sudan endured a long fight for their independence and it soon became clear that another fight, one for unity, representation and justice this time, was just emerging. In late 2013, simmering tensions erupted and these have kept South Sudan in an extremely fragile state. For three of South Sudan’s five years of nationhood, the country has been embroiled in conflict, the cloud of suffering and discouragement hangs heavy across the land…and yet there is hope!
As Americans and more foundationally, as believers living in America, we have every reason to be hopeful for this young nation. Over two hundred years ago we declared our own independence and yet we had a long road to traverse in creating unity and establishing representation and justice for all. Through God’s gracious hand, we have come a long way and yet we recognize the need for continual progress. The South Sudanese can stand firm in their faith that the same God who has worked and continues to work in our country is also at work in theirs. A nation and its leaders are not our hope, He is. And this hope is rooted in the fact that He remains constant and unchanging (Hebrews 13:8).
Right now South Sudan needs ministers of reconciliation. Over 50% of their population is under the age of 18 and this means an entire generation is like fields ripe for harvest (John 4:35). South Sudan is a land of many people and yet we serve a God who through the sacrifice of His Son has provided the means to make one Body out of many. The throne room of the King of Kings will one day be filled with the praises of those from the various tribes of South Sudan and we believe that the young generation you have partnered with us to invest in is an integral part of God’s plan for the future of this nation. The misguided actions of the few cannot be allowed to drown out the voices of the many who long for peace, security and justice. Please stand with us in support of the South Sudanese and join with us in praying for God to continue raising up men and women as ministers of reconciliation.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. – 2 Cor. 5:17-21Read More
Publication: BBC News Online
After nearly three years of devastating civil conflict, South Sudanese artists have come together to try and get the country thinking and talking about peace, by launching a public art project in the capital Juba.
Having spread its message over many of the walls in Juba, the team now plans to extend the project outside the capital.
Photos courtesy of Ana TabanRead More
Publication: The National
JUBA // On bakery walls, buildings and roadside sheeting in South Sudan’s capital of Juba, street artists fed up with war are painting for peace as young musicians, actors and artists campaign to end decades of conflict.
A mural of a child in a singlet working at a sewing machine reads “the young who are tired are the ones who will sew the fabric of our nation back together”.
A white-washed bakery wall features stark silhouettes wielding axes while a container doubling up as a cultural centre shows an AK-47 shooting doves instead of bullets.
The anti-war street art burgeoning on the roads of the hot, humid South Sudanese capital on the banks of the White Nile, the scene of heavy combat as recently as July, is the work of a newly-created movement called #AnaTaban.
#AnaTaban tags itself on twitter as “a community of young South Sudanese creatives who are tired of seeing our people suffer”.
The world’s newest nation won its independence only five years ago after decades of war. But the fighting continued, degenerating into a particularly brutal civil conflict that has driven more than one million people out of the country and displaced many more.
Villages have been burnt to the ground, almost half the population relies on food assistance to survive and women and girls are raped by government and rebel forces, according to rights groups.
With no end in sight, some 40 entertainers and artists in Juba set up #AnaTaban with the support of exiled compatriots also involved in the arts. They hope to spread to other cities such as Wau, Yei, Aweil and Yambio.
“What #AnaTaban is doing is actually to create a platform for other young South Sudanese people to raise their voices, to speak out their mind, so we all have everlasting peace in this country,” said co-founder Joyce Maker.
Maker, an actress, plays out dire scenes of the conflict through theatre, while #AnaTaban musicians have recorded a first song and are preparing another under the theme #AnaMalesh – “I’m sorry” in Arabic.
Over the coming weeks the group plans a series of public events, on streets, in hospitals, schools and even in prisons.
“What is happening now in South Sudan is corruption, war, conflict,” said painter and cartoonist Thomas Dai.
Last week, a report commissioned by actor-activist George Clooney alleged massive corruption and war profiteering by its leaders, saying the key factor in the fighting was “competition for the grand prize – control over state assets and the country’s abundant natural resources”, notably its oil.
“Those things, we want to put them out, we want to throw them out,” said Dai. “We want to say these things are not good. That’s what we want to show to the people through art, painting, graffiti, on the street.”
Poet and rapper Asif Kafi described the group’s work as “art-ivism”, combining art and activism.
“We have musicians, we have artists, people … portraying a message of peace and reconciliation,” he said.
* Agence France-PresseRead More
Publication: The National
JUBA // The giants danced barefoot in circles, strips of leopard print skirt flapping, before one lunged in to topple his opponent and thump him down on the grass.
There was a wild roar of support from hundreds of supporters crammed into the national football stadium in South Sudan’s capital Juba to cheer on a Wrestling for Peace competition.
In this war-wracked country, with a repeatedly broken peace deal now stalled after the rebel chief failed to return to the capital this week to forge a so-called unity government, the people are getting on with their lives as best they can.
“Enough of war, we are tired,” said policeman Peter Thony, who had joined the crowd watching the week-long tournament, peering through the wire fence around the pitch. “It is good to just enjoy sport.”
South Sudan has suffered more than two years of civil war, with tens of thousands of people killed and more than two million driven from their homes. But if there is one thing that can bring people together, it is wrestling.
“It has taken too long to return to peace, so this is a way of saying normal people want normality,” said tournament organiser Peter Biar Ajak, who hoped the games would bring a divided people together.
Competitors from different tribes are taking part in games backed by the US government aid agency, Usaid.
“Wrestling is a sport that everyone loves, so coming here is hoped to encourage peace, forgiveness and reconciliation,” Mr Ajak said.
Back on the pitch, the winner leapt high into the air, an ostrich feather fluttering from his head and his torso daubed with cattle dung ash for decoration, as women waved umbrellas and ululate their approval.
The loser was led away by his teammates as the next bout was readied.
Wrestling is a popular sport among South Sudan’s dozens of ethnic groups, and has long been a way for young men to test their strength without resorting to bloody violence.
“Wrestling for peace, forgiveness and reconciliation,” read the slogan on a t-shirt handed out at the tournament and worn by one spectator.
Next to him stood a supporter of rebel chief Riek Machar, wearing a t-shirt with the face of the man many hoped would return this week to take up the post of vice-president, the job he was sacked from in 2013, months before war broke out.
“Wrestling is not going to stop the war,” said Philip Jok, nearly seven feet (210 centimetres) tall, with the traditional deep scars cut into his forehead that mark him as being from the Dinka tribe from the eastern town of Bor.
“But getting together like this, well, we can see we don’t have to fight each other.”
Mr Ajak, 32, fled the more than two decades war between north and south Sudan from 1983-2005 as a child, ending up as a refugee in the United States, studying at Harvard, then returning to his homeland as an economist.
South Sudan won its independence from Sudan in 2011 but returned to war in December 2013 after violence triggered by political rivalry escalated into a conflict characterised by brutality that has split the country along old ethnic fissures.
It was not the first time he has run wrestling competitions, but the last one in December 2013 was interrupted by an outbreak of fighting between rival units inside the presidential guard, clashes that then spread across the city and into civil war.
“It was a terrible time,” Mr Ajak said, recalling the ethnic massacres that took place across the capital.
Fighting – which still continues despite the peace deal – also spread to the regional capital, Bor.
“The wrestlers from Bor were all here in Juba to take part, but their families were all back home,” Mr Ajak said, shaking his head at the memory.
The town was razed in the battles.
Now the tournament is being held again for the first time since the war began, a sign, Mr Ajak said, that “there is hope that things will get better again”.
While there is no fighting in Juba, the economy is in ruins with soaring inflation and food prices reaching “record highs”, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
“Alarming reports of starvation, acute malnutrition and catastrophe levels of food insecurity have been reported in areas worst affected by the ongoing violence,” the FAO said.
Mr Machar’s failure to return has left Mr Ajak afraid that the games might once again by stopped by war.
“People were upset. They thought it would all be cancelled,” he said, adding that the top prizes of five cattle, including a bull and three pregnant cows, would be a major draw for competitors.
“The war has to end and life goes on,” he said. “This is a way of saying we want peace.”
* Agence France-PresseRead More