Bob and Kristi Rice Update
Juba, South Sudan
Nile Theological Seminary
Celebrating Peace in South Sudan
Wednesday, October 31 was a big celebration in Juba of the recent peace agreement in South Sudan. Several African presidents came, along with leaders of opposition parties in South Sudan. As the city of Juba was busy preparing for the celebration by painting curbs, picking up trash, and sending truckloads of soldiers to beef up security, we were not sure what to expect. Leaders who had been at war were going to be in the same location. We were advised to stay home and lay low rather than join the crowds at Freedom Field.
Wednesday morning, we heard commotion and voices in the street. After the recent shooting incident, I am rather reticent to head to the window when there is a commotion. But when we did, we saw hundreds of people lining up for a parade with banners proclaiming peace. Boy Scouts and Girl Guides, women dressed in white, men and women in traditional clothes, and dancers decked out in their tribal outfits – the lines of people stretched long distances down the street. A truck with big speakers provided some music, and they began their march toward Freedom Square – about a 2-mile hike. It was not an ordinary left-right march, either, but one with a few dance steps thrown in that gave it a real celebratory feel.
We listened on the radio as other presidents arrived at the Juba airport and then to the speeches and proceedings at the parade grounds. We were impressed with the conciliatory words spoken by many parties and by their acknowledgement that the people of South Sudan want real peace and an end to the suffering the conflict has caused. What struck us most about that day, however, was what we heard from others in Juba afterwards.
On Friday Bob talked to Abraham, a fellow teacher at Nile Theological College. Abraham had arrived around 6:00 a.m. for the celebration and STOOD in the packed crowd of people for 12 hours. No food, no water. But he said he enjoyed seeing the dances of various tribal groups who performed and was thrilled to be there to witness the historic event. He also saw many friends and familiar faces and described it as a “reunion,” a mixed group with all tribes together. A young woman who cleans in our building had to work the day of the celebration, but she went to the parade grounds in the evening and joined in the dancing and celebrating all night long. When we visited our friend Mary at her tea stall, she excitedly related how her kids could not sleep the whole night before the big celebration because of all the commotion and rejoicing in the street. “Peace has really come,” she said, “but there is still a lot of work to do to help people to forgive and learn to live together.”
We rejoice at this significant step forward in the quest for peace in South Sudan. We continue to pray, to work, and to look forward to seeing lasting peace come to this land. We know that the wounds are deep, and the healing will be hard, and only Christ can carry the pain and transform lives. Please join us in praying for true peace, for effective implementation by the government of this peace agreement, and for the Church who has a great responsibility to model reconciliation and forgiveness that is beyond our human ability.
Grateful for your support,
Bob and Kristi Rice
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