Twelve international peacemakers from around the world are visiting congregations, presbyteries and colleges of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Sept. 19-Oct. 12.
They are sharing their stories about church-based ministries in their countries that seek peace justice and pursue peace in the name of Jesus Christ. This year’s international peacemakers come from Colombia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Jamaica, Madagascar, Malawi, Mexico, Palestine, the Philippines, Russia, South Sudan and Syria.
The Rev. James Koung Ninrew Dong currently serves as the Liaison Officer for the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan (PCoSS) in Juba. He is a human rights activist, especially in the areas of the environment and extractive industries. He is a founding member and sits on the board of directors of the Nuer Peace Council (NPC), is chairperson of the South Sudan Action Network on Small Arm (SSANSA), is executive director of Assistance Mission for Africa (AMA), and is a founding member of the South Sudanese Network for Democracy and Election (SSuNDE). He has been a minister with the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan for 19 years. James speaks English, Arabic and Nuer and is married with 7 children, 3 boys and 4 girls.
What is the most important situation in your country that you will be addressing?
Since December 2013, there has been unrest in the country, so even if I don’t want to talk about it, I know people will ask me to clarify some of the issues so that they can get a sense of what is happening in South Sudan.
How are the faith communities trying to address this situation?
The role of the faith community is to raise prayers and to issue statements urging the two parties [represented in the current government] to come together around the decision table to put down all the weapons to reach a peaceful resolution to the conflict. Toward this end, IGAD [Intergovernmental Authority on Development, a bloc of countries in the Horn of Africa working toward “achieving peace, prosperity and regional integration” in the region]provided a forum where the church was also represented under faith-based organizations. The faith-based organizations are also organizing mini-conferences at the grass roots level to raise the awareness of the people on the ground to know what is going on and to pressure the two groups to come to the tables of talk and urging the people not to join them, because by joining them and fighting on their side then they are encouraging this problem to go much longer.
What peacemaking lessons from your situation are you trying to communicate to U.S. Presbyterians?
There is more than one thing that the PC(USA) can do. During the conflict in South Sudan, there have been many abuses of human rights which need to be highlighted and taken further to the U.N., where the Presbyterian Church has an office. The U.N. has been very silent in terms of condemning people who have committed crimes under the pretext that they don’t want to intervene in a sovereign country. What happened in South Sudan is that many people have been killed by the same regime that was supposed to protect them. The world is so silent as if nothing has happened. The U.N. office is well placed to advocate for the people of South Sudan that we need a transitional government that will prepare the ground for a peaceful election that would bring a government that would be trusted by the people.
What is the primary message you want to communicate to U.S. Presbyterians about your country?
What is happening in South Sudan or Iraq or Jordan or Palestine, yes, it’s a special situation for these people, and someone who is very, very far away may think he [sic] has no role to play. What I want U.S. Presbyterians to take away from my presentations is to sympathize with our situation, raise prayers, and highlight issues that we are not able to bring to the surface. We need them to lift up the people who are dying and need support; the people who are injured and need medications; and the government—which is brutal and killing people—needs to be exposed. Prayer needs to be raised so that God also works on the hearts and the minds of the people who are doing [the killing] so that peace could come.
The Rev. James Ninrew will be visiting the presbyteries of Philadelphia, Santa Fe, Grand Canyon, and Muskingum Valley.
Editor’s Note:The South Sudan Education and Peacemaking Project is an effort by Presbyterian World Mission and its partners to assist the world’s youngest nation, South Sudan, in developing its most important resource, its children. The new government of South Sudan, which is struggling to meet an enormous array of challenges, does not have the capacity to build a national educational system without assistance.
The project will provide quality education for children in South Sudan that instills Christian values, respect for women, loving our neighbor despite ethnic differences, and service to others. The goal is to help the country gain its educational footing while helping to foster a sustainable culture of peace. The project partners include the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan (PCOSS), RECONCILE, a ministry of the New Sudan Council of Churches that promotes reconciliation in Sudanese communities; and ACROSS, an interdenominational organization aimed at promoting stronger communities.
Read a related story in the Louisville Courier Journal about “The Good Lie,” a movie which opens in theaters Oct. 3 about “The Lost Boys,” who were orphaned by the brutal civil war in Sudan, beginning in 1983. World Mission has been co-partnering in South Sudan for over a century and has recently launched a new program to assist the country in developing better quality education for its children. World Mission can send a speaker to talk about the history and current situation in South Sudan and the South Sudan Education & Peacemaking Project. For more information, download the PDF .