, 25 January, 2020 / 3:45 AM
A two-day forum bringing together members of the Ecumenical Network South Sudan (ENSS) in Juba has given hope to the revival of the religious entity that engages internal and external partners in view of advancing priority needs in the world’s youngest nation, Church officials at the meeting have told ACI Africa.
Guided by the need for collective peace in South Sudan and especially the desire to revive the ruined hopes of South Sudanese, the forum that concluded Wednesday, January 22 focused on two significant aspects, advocacy for peace and reviving the collaboration between local and international stakeholders of ENSS, John Ashworth who facilitated the meeting told ACI Africa.
One of the issues discussed at the meeting, Ashworth, an advisor to the South Sudan Council of Churches (SSCC) said, is what the various churches in South Sudan are advocating for, that is, peace.
“Obviously we are advocating for peace,” Ashworth told ACI Africa and clarified the need for meeting to strategize about peace in South Sudan with partners, “you can’t just go out and say to the world we want peace.”
Participants at the meeting also spent time seeking how to communicate with each other, “looking at how our international partners are going to work together as a network,” Ashworth who facilitated the forum said about the meeting held at the Good Shepherd Peace Centre in the outskirts of Juba within Rejaf County.
He provided further details about the two-day meeting during the January 23 interview with ACI Africa correspondent saying, “from the actual work that the network is doing, we have formed two halves, we have a half for Europe and North America, we have a half for Africa. We have identified which agency is leading those halves; we have identified how the members of those halves will communicate with each other; we have identified who is the focal person here in the Council (SSCC), and that of course is the advocacy officer.”
Ashworth continued, “The international partners have also identified the sorts of things their government are so interested in. And they have identified certain opportunities that they will have to take our message.”
“We can take our messages to this endeavour and we can share our messages with activists from all over Africa,” the Kenya-based English-born Catholic missionary said and added in reference to the initiative of advocating for South Sudan peace across countries, “it is a way of spreading messages, a way of spreading public opinions, it is a way of changing a narrative which is what advocacy is all about.”
Referencing the engagement of all members of ENSS following the Juba meeting, Ashworth who has worked with Churches in Sudan and South Sudan for the last 37 years said, “This is an opportunity for us because we can take messages from the South Sudan Churches about peace in South Sudan, a country where oil is of the whole mixed.”
According to SSCC Secretary General, South Sudanese Fr. James Oyet Latansio who was part of the two-day ENSS forum, issues around the oil sector were discussed, including initiative to “support justice and reparation for those affected by oil exploration, and support the court case against Lundin in Sweden.”
Further, in its working document titled Reflections of the Ecumenical Network South Sudan, ENSS members encouraged SSCC and partners to reach out to parties of the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS) in view of influencing “decision making around sticky issues of the deadlock,” Fr. Oyet told ACI Africa correspondent in an interview January 23.
ENSS meeting also recommended that SSCC and partners “conduct evidence-based and verification of the information in the cantonment sites/military barracks and training centres.”
Other areas in the ENSS document, Fr. Oyet said, highlight the need for humanitarian support for the suffering people of South Sudan, developing the Church position on the issue of states after a consultation process of the people of South Sudan, as well as facilitating an Action Plan for Peace strategy for sustainable peace in the world’s newest nation.
Meanwhile, Isaac Kenyi, an official with the Juba-based South Sudan Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat who was also part of ENSS forum told ACI Africa in an interview that “the most important takeaway from that meeting is the revitalization of the network itself.”
“We are reviving the old network but in a new format. This coming together was like renewing or recommitment of partners to this ecumenical network,” Kenyi said.
“When the network was created (in 2014), there has been a bit of a gap between the partners,” Kenyi who also advices SSCC said and added, “there was a little bit of who is doing what and who is not doing what but in this meeting, it has come very clear, the demarcation and the re-allocation of responsibilities.”
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa