August 17 2016 marked one year since warring factions in South Sudan, one led by President Salva Kiir and the other led by Dr. Riek Machar, signed a peace accord in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. This anniversary came at a time when there was renewed violence in the country, in which women and girls were reported to have been sexually violated by armed groups and civilians. TCT spoke to one woman leader from Juba about the situation in the country and what the Church can do to help restore peace.
Juan Murye (left, carrying books), like many of her countrymen and women, was born and brought up in the Diaspora. She was born and educated in Uganda, and went back to South Sudan in 1985. A mother of two, she is a records statistician at Juba Teaching Hospital, and a part-time Bible teacher in Sudan Theological College in Juba. In spite of the challenges of conflict that may be pushing many to hopelessness, Juan is very optimistic and believes that the problems facing the country are temporary, and will come to an end very soon, when people turn to Jesus Christ.
She expressed her sentiments at a time when church leaders under the umbrella of South Sudan Council of Churches (SSCC), recently met in Juba with the aim of finding ways of moving the peace process forward.
They made a commitment to work together in order to lead their flocks effectively and towards the achievement of peace in the country. One of the resolutions of the meeting was that the clergy must shepherd in unity, in honesty and with courage.
“The Church in my country is aware of her mandate as a peace maker and is working hand-in-hand with the government to ensure peace comes back to the nation. There are prayer rallies in the public by women through the South Sudan Council of Churches. The top church leadership is talking with government leaders to accept and work for peace,” Juan said.
She added that the Church is also working at the grassroots level, by advising local communities, chiefs, cattle keepers and citizens to embrace peace. They do this through preaching, visitations, the media, and at community gatherings like weddings or funerals, and in other social gatherings.
She says the Church should play an active role of leading people in prayer and fasting to break generational curses and strongholds in different communities in the country.
Juan says that in her church there are members who fast and pray every Monday, Thursday and Saturdays, to break curses and strongholds among the different tribes in the country. During these prayer sessions, she says, they experience the movement of God and He speaks to them through words of revelation and prophesies.
“That is why we are not moved for, we know that what is happening in our country is a spiritual problem and is temporary,” Juan says optimistically.
She believes the time is coming when the eyes and the minds of people will be opened by the light of the gospel. Furthermore, she says transformation and peace will come when there is aggressive preaching of the gospel.
Juan got her theological training at Sudan Theological College and in Nile Theological College in Khartoum, Sudan. Currently, she is pursuing a Masters in Leadership at Global University, East Africa Graduate Studies Centre, based in Nairobi, Kenya. She and her husband lead the Juba Christian Centre, under the umbrella of Sudan Pentecostal Church, where she is involved in teaching, preaching and counselling.
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“Preach the gospel wherever you go”
Together with her husband, who also teaches at Sudan Theological College, they are encouraging church leaders and all Christians to preach the gospel everywhere they go.
“We are training pastors, evangelists, women and youth leaders, to move their followers to preach the gospel, bathed with prayers,” she says.
She adds that her training in leadership will help enhance her capacity to train and impact other leaders in her country, especially women, which is her main area of focus.
“My training in Global University is enhancing this move, for I am part of the church leaders’ trainers,” she adds.
Since soldiers have their religious life nurtured by chaplains, she says the Church is trying to find ways of training chaplains, to make them more effective as they serve in the armed forces. A study of South Sudanese ex-combatants done a couple of years back found that 15% of them reported wishing they were dead or had thoughts of self harm, while 36% had post-traumatic stress disorder.
Generally, there are very few facilities and personnel to help those suffering from trauma. Currently, there is only one public hospital in the country providing psychiatric care, and only two practicing psychiatrists in the entire country of 11 million people, a tiny drop in a country that has witnessed many years of violence.
Juan says it is for this reason the church has stepped in and is already helping many people who have been suffering silently from trauma. But she is of the view that more can still be done.
“Trauma counselling is part of what the church is doing in a small way in that, there are no national trauma counselling centers where people in need of help could voluntarily come out for counselling. At the moment, church premises serve that purpose as well,” she says.
Besides, she says, the Church is involved in advocacy. She is calling for the solidarity of the World Council of Churches to intervene and stand with South Sudan as they did in the past.
She appreciates prayers offered by friends of South Sudan from the rest of the world, which have encouraged the people and made them not to give up.
“This gives us hope and strength,” she said.
Juan is convinced that the greatest challenge facing the country is lack of relationship with God. She says that the sooner South Sudan people come back to God and give their lives to Christ, the better it will be for them. They will learn to embrace people from other communities and live at peace with each other.
“We are convinced that it is through an aggressive preaching of the gospel that true peace will be realized. For when Jesus comes in, the devil must leave. And Jesus is already taking over!” she said emphatically.