One thing I love about working for the Episcopal Church of Sudan, is that whenever there is a big event, it’s all hands on deck. It is for that reason, that I found myself, the Agriculture Consultant, taking minutes at a peace meeting in Rumbek last week.
The peace gathering was an important event. The two regions of Greater Bahr al Ghazal and Western Equatoria have been having some conflict over the past year. It is another chapter of the age-old conflict between cattle keepers and farmers: Cane and Abel, Jacob and Esau, ranchers and farmers… Oklahoma the musical… even in Western culture we are familiar with the concept. The cattle herders of Bahr al Ghazal were bringing their cattle into Western Equatoria for grazing during the drought, trampling crops while they were at it, creating conflict and violence in the communities.
The peace event brought together representatives of the state governments, one Governor, many local chiefs, church members, and the bishops from the two regions. Through three days of lectures, reports, discussions, and sharing, the group came up with a list of very progressive recommendations for the communities and the government. Including such hot topics as, lowering bride prices, encouraging intermarriage between tribes, and limiting grazing areas.
The participants took this work very seriously and engaged openly and honestly with each other in dialog. One participant was a farmer, and she had been shot and nearly killed by a cattle herder, yet she joined openly in group discussions with cattle keepers.
I was tasked, as the secretary, to work with a smaller committee to draft the statement for the conference. We worked late into the night to prepare the statement for the next day. But we struggled to think of a good way to open it. Finally, with a nod to Thomas Jefferson, we start with the word, "we"… and the rest just flowed.
“We are deeply grieved that violent conflicts among the southern peoples continue to tear apart our communities and threaten our future…”
(Click here to see the full statement and resolutions).
The Churches in Sudan were instrumental in bringing about the peace agreement that ended the war in 2005, and the Episcopal Church continues to play an important role in the living into that peace. The Church and its leaders speak prophetically about peace and what it takes. Peace conferences like this one have been hosted in other places, and will continue to be hosted, and the bishops on the ground will continue to work with their people on peace and reconciliation.
While my purpose here is agricultural, I was so blessed to get to be the recorder of some of the history being made here on the front of peace.