The Tribe Of Abuna.
The idea of the tribe of Abuna came from two experiences;
1) In December 2012, there was a violent conflict between the Bagari and the Dinka communities in Wau town. The conflict was provoked by the Government,s decision to transfer the headquarters of Wau and Jur-river counties from Wau town to Bagari and Nyin-Akok, respectively.
The Inter-Church Committee and the Islamic Council in Wau decided to form an Inter-Religious Peace Committee to facilitate dialogue between the two communities.
The former Catholic Bishops of Wau Diocese Rodulf Deng Majak was the Chair, Deputized by an Imam and I was appointed as the Secretary of the Committee.
Three of us went to meet with the elders and the youth of the Bagari community at a place called Madan Tahrir (Liberation Square) in the Western part of Wau town.
No Dinka was allowed to come to this area at that time. But the two of us Bishop Rodulf and myself, were Dinkas but the Bagari community warmly welcomed us. In fact, the Paramount Chief of the Bagari community knelt down before Bishop Rodulf and told him that now we have found someone whom we believe will pass our message to President Kiir without removing anything we said or adding anything we did not say. He then went on to explain their grievances against the Government and the Dinka community. Indeed, Bishop Rodulf explains everything Bagari community told us to President Kiir when he came to Wau a few weeks later.
2) In January 2017 over 5000 people were displaced in the southern part of Wau town as a result of fighting between SPLA-IO forces and armed Dinka cattle camp youth popularly known as Gelweng (cattle guards) from Tonj North County.
The IDPs came to the Episcopal Church of South Sudan (ECSS) Good Shepherd Cathedral compound in Wau town.
The IDPs were comprised of the Luo community about 70%, the Jieng ( Dinka) community about 20% and Fertit community about 10%.
The Church warmly welcomed the IDPs and provided them with water, food and clothing for 15 days before the NGOs came with a Relief Assistant.
Initially, the IDPs especially the Luo and the Dinka communities, were so divided along ethnic line.
But IDPs were surprise to find the Dinka and the Luo clergy serving in the Church united and working as one group. In fact, Rev Andrew Apiny, who heads the Church,s Relief and Development Wing-CARD, Pastor Okang whom I appointed to manage the camp and I was living in the same house and eating at the same table.
Some NGO staff requested us to allow them to divide the camp along an ethnic line, but we rejected the request and manage the camp as one unit. The IDPs were encouraged to report any differences they may have with their neighbours to the church leaders so that they are addressed before they grow into violent conflict.
In the process of reporting the Luos would approach me and say Abuna look at what the Dinkas have done or are doing to us. The Dinkas were doing the same to Rev Andrew and Pastor Okang, both of whom are Luos.
In their reporting, the IDPs seem not to consider Abuna as part of his/her original community but of a different community which we came to call “The Tribe of Abuna”.
Those whom the IDPs think did not meet the standard of the Abuna tribe were sacked before they were returned to their original community. You could hear the IDPs saying so and so is not Abuna, he is just a Dinka or Luo.
We are glad ethnic division and tensions reduced within the following weeks and the two communities coexisted peacefully from then up to date.
So from the two incidents, we realized that there is a belief among the South Sudanese communities, including nonbelievers, that Abuna belongs to all the communities, so he/she must be free from tribalism otherwise they will not consider him/her as Abuna.
This is exactly what happened in Acts 2:42-47. After the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples in Jerusalem what followed was the creation of a new community that was united by their faith in Christ instate of their ethnicity. The new community was made up of Jews and Gentiles, former slaves and slaves owners, men and women on equal basis. Love and Good will define the daily life of the new community.
As Church Leaders we want to create this new community in South Sudan through our Peace Building and Good Governance organisation “Church Leaders Initiative for Peace (CLIP)” under the programme known as “The tribe of Abuna”
We will do this through a series of activities including
1) Peace rallies/Peace Caravans aimed promoting uniting factors and discouraging dividing factors,
2) Inter and intra-communal dialogue conferences and workshops
3) Training of religious and community leaders (Chief, women and the youth) and Local Government Administrators in trauma awareness and healing
4) Training of religious, community leaders and Local Government Administrators in peacebuilding and conflict transformation,
5) Civic Education on R-ARCSS, Rule of Law and Democracy
6) Formation of Inter-Religious and Inter communities Peace Committees
7) Annual cultural events,
8) Sports for Peace,
9) Interactive Radio talk shows, among other activities, designed to reduce ethnic hatred and animosity and promote love, equality, forgiveness, peace reconciliation and unity among all the 64 communities of South Sudan.
We are therefore appealing to all people of good will who want to see peace and unity in South Sudan to support this programme with resources so that we can build this new community in order to address the Rampant Violence conflict (Political and Inter/intra communal) in South Sudan.
The objectives of the Tribe of Abuna Programme are;
1) To Reduce ethnic hatred and animosity
2) Promote Love, equality, forgiveness, peace, reconciliation and unity among the 64 ethnic communities of South Sudan.
3) Promote Good Governance, Rule of Law, Democracy and Social Cohesion among the 64 communities of South Sudan.
4) Economically and socially empower women and youth in order to transform the South Sudanese society
Our Guiding Principles
1) Equality (Genesis 1:26-27)
2) Love (Justice, Fairness and Equity)(Mathew 22:37-40).
3) Forgiveness (Mathew 6:14).
Why the Church?
Here are some of the reasons we think the Church is the best institution to empower the people of South Sudan.
1) Neutrality and impartiality (E.g Luo and Dinka communities at ECSS IDP camp, Church leaders used to visit both Government and rebel camps).
2) Respect by all the communities and parties-Church can challenge all the parties.
3) Church is trusted by most communities, e.g the story of the Bagari Chief
4) Sustainability nature of the Church.
5) Church leaders are multi task e.g. leaders, counsellors, administrators and humanitarian workers.
6) The Church is leading by example in Good Governance, rule of law and democracy.
7) Awareness of the local context, e.g people and their cultures.
8) Availability and functioning of the Church at all levels of the society (Local, Regional, National and International)
9) Long period of working in peace and reconciliation. e.g. New Sudan Council of Churches, Multi-ethnic dialogue, formation of Wau Area Peace committee etc
10) Authority of the Bible.