If you have a long job title, it usually means you have a lot of important work to do. For Juma Mabor Marial, it’s helping to bring peace to war-torn South Sudan.
Juma is the Peace Building, Justice and Reconciliation Program Coordinator for African Leadership and Reconciliation Ministries (ALARM). As a Tearfund partner it is trying to bring peace from the grassroots level up.
I met with him on a recent visit to the UK.
I began by asking him to explain a little of the background to the conflict:
The most recent conflict broke out in South Sudan in December 2013, two years after independence of the world’s youngest nation. For the last five years people have been back and forth in negotiating a peace agreement. The most recent talks were held in Khartoum, and we hope that’s what is going to hold.*
We have an ongoing humanitarian crisis. So many people have fled their homes to other parts of the country or over the borders to Uganda, Kenya, and Ethiopia.
What's the feeling among the people you meet?
For those that choose to stay in South Sudan – although things are not easy – home is home.
There is hope that peace is coming back, people are trying to wait for that to happen, and if it happens, then things will go back to normal.
What are you and ALARM doing practically to try and bring peace to South Sudan?
First and foremost we are arranging for people to talk through issues that are causing conflict. This involves peace-building and forgiveness training with members of parliament, religious leaders, youth leaders, and community leaders, including women.
We are enabling these people to sit together, talk together, and develop ways to resolve conflict. This all helps to bring peace to communities.
We are also teaching them about forgiveness. Whatever might have happened to you, there is room for you to forgive another person and there is also room for you to be forgiven.
What challenges do you face in this work?
We are trying our best to reconcile the communities. But each time you go to the communities, you find there are a lot of blame games. So it becomes very difficult to find where the problem is, and that is what we have been struggling with to see how we can be able to convince the communities to sit together and accept their responsibilities.
Then there is the perception that even as the peacemakers ourselves we are still not trusted because we may come from another community. And when you talk about peace, people think you are pretending. They don't believe what you are say, so it's a very difficult situation.
What will peace look like in South Sudan?
When you can stay in your village and continue with your normal activities without any threat to your life or to your property, or to your family. That is the peace that people want to see. You can also have public services, roads, health facilities, food, drinking water, and schools. That is when peace will be in South Sudan. But without peace, all these things are just dreams.
Neighbour to neighbour we need to live together as one. If people can live together in peace in their local communities, then the whole country will be stable.
*Since this interview took place two of the country’s rival leaders, President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar, have shaken hands on a what they are calling a ‘final, final’ peace agreement.
- Lift up in prayer all the people of South Sudan. Pray particularly for all those who have been forced to flee their homes and are struggling to survive.
- Pray for lasting-peace in the country, and that the work of organisations such as ALARM will have even more impact. Pray that this most recent peace agreement will last.
- After peace, the biggest need in South Sudan is food. Please pray for provision for those who struggle to get enough.