Action Plan for Peace
by Jeff Ritchie
“The only hope for peace is the church.” So declared the Rev. Peter Gai, Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan, when our team visited him in Addis Ababa. The Rev. Gai had been part of the Ecumenical delegation which we met the day before, but an infected wound in his leg prevented him from meeting us then. He wanted to see us, however, and we were grateful to get his insights on how the churches can be the means of peace in the 3 ½ year conflict.
The Moderator spoke about the “Action Plan for Peace,” or APP. He underscored what we heard the previous day that the church needs to speak with a united voice, “We want peace.” It must share this message with all the churches in South Sudan, with all who have fled South Sudan and are in refugee camps, and with the Sudanese Diaspora. The latter, the Rev. Gai said, can play a pivotal role in bringing peace to South Sudan. Two of our team members are among the dispersed peoples of South Sudan, so this was a comment particularly to Jacob Gatkuoth and David Paduil in light of what he would later say.
The Action Plan for Peace includes a strategy of getting the churches and governments in the countries surrounding Ethiopia to advocate for peace. The Ecumenical delegation had not come to Ethiopia to meet only with the refugees. They had also come to meet the church and government leaders of Ethiopia to engage them in advocacy for peace. Through their efforts, the Ecumenical team hopes and prays that the “one voice” with which the church speaks for peace will grow stronger and louder.
Rev. Peter went on to say that there are tremendous challenges to mobilize all the churches for peace. He referred to the hostile reception which the Ecumenical delegation received in the camps in Gambella. Members of the South Sudan Council of Churches were blamed by hotheads for being on the side of the President of South Sudan, Salva Kir, just because they had come from Juba. The fragmentation of the people is also threatened by “internet warriors” from Sudanese in the Diaspora who fan the flames of hatred with their posts.
The church as Christ’s body must look to the cross, declared the Moderator. We must take shelter underneath it. A gospel-shaped call for peace was what our group heard from the Rev. Peter Gai.
Let me add a couple of human touches to this meeting. We were in the room where the Moderator was staying. He was unable to get up to greet us, and he was making daily trips to the hospital for treatment of his leg. Peter Gai was greeting us as more than a partner church leader. He was greeting us as a brother in Christ who was in pain.
He was also greeting Jacob Gatkuoth as a family member because they are related. He was greeting David Paduil as a former disciple whom he had known for decades. We realized in this hospital room that the Family had come together. It was a holy moment.
Please pray for healing for the Rev. Peter Gai Lual, Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan and Chair of the South Sudan Council of Churches. And pray for the fruit of a unified message of peace and reconciliation through neutral forums as the churches of the world, particularly those in South Sudan and the countries surrounding it, adopt this “Action Plan for Peace.”