‘WHAT CAN RELIGIONS DO FOR PEACE IN SOUTH SUDAN’, BISHOP EDUARDO HIIBORO
The bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Tombura-Yambio, Barani Eduardo Hiiboro Kussala, has delivered a speech at the Interstate Governors’ Strategic Intervention Conference that took place in Yambio, South Sudan, from 27-30 November 2017. Drawing from the religions’ teaching and traditions, the bishop called on everyone to make yet another effort to bring peace in the country.
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AN ADDRESS BY BISHOP EDUARDO HIIBORO KUSSALA AT THE INTERSTATE GOVERNORS’ STRATEGIC INTERVENTION CONFERENCE FOR PEACE UNDER THE THEME ‘PEACE WITHIN AND ACROSS THE BORDERS’
Yambio, 27-30 November, 2017
Peace, Shalom, Salamu, Zereda, Dor,
Hon. Tor Mawein Deng, the presidential delegate to this conference,
Hon. Jemma Nun Kumba, Minister and Acting Secretary of SPLM Party
Hon. Ambassador Agustino, Deputy Chairman of Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission
H.E. David S, the Special Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG)
Right Honourable Speakers of the Legislative Assembly,
Religious Leaders, Ladies and Gentleman,
I am greatly honoured to be among the lovers of peace, to be part of this sacred pilgrimage (journey) of these nine designated states of South Sudan towards the Holy mountain of Peace. This is a great moment for the history of Yei River, Amadi, West Lakes, Gok, Wau, Tonji, Meridi, Tombura and Gbudue states. These great States have looked for this moment: all of us, coming from diverse backgrounds, various religions could come together to listen to one another, to explore the possibilities of promoting greater peace and prosperity to the present and future generation. This initiative is belated but this is an opportune time.
The background of this Interstate Governors strategic Intervention Conference for Peace is all of us the individual nine states. That is why the theme of this conference has been carefully chosen: “Peace from within and across the borders”. The Interfaith Council for Peace Initiatives for the last three years had laid down its three years strategic planning programs which include different levels of dialogues, consultations and networking involving neutral form and active advocacy within and across the board.
In this conference as Governors I am happy to inform you that during the next three days we build friendship, mutual areas of collaboration and commitments together. We do not come to count the wounds of the past; we have come to count theblessings of peace. We have come not to recall the nightmares of bygone eras, but to pursue the promise of peace for us and future generations. We are never defined by our past but our present, as no matter how hard the past, you can always start again. We wish to forget the wounds of the past and move ahead towards peace.
My nearly 15 years’ experience in working for peace, I have learnt a lot of what peace is; that is why I wish to share with you here. As we all know, while peacemaking is an everyday activity – how you welcome new people at village, community, school, how you deal with conflict among your friends, and the daily decisions you make about how to react to frustrations and disappointments – it is also applying these commitments to tackle bigger problems you see in your nation. I strongly believe that it isn’t enough to put peace first in your daily life; being a peacemaker means working with others to put these ideas to work toward bigger challenges. These are called Peacemaking journeys.
A peacemaking journey is when you join with others to solve an injustice in your area using compassion and courage. In fact, what makes a peacemaking journey a peacemaking journey isn’t the size or scale of the problem you tackle, but how you apply the commitments of peacemaking within your work. How do you take a stand for what you believe in? How can you understand different people’s perspectives? How do you work with others, including people who disagree with you? Different from other service programs or volunteer work, a peacemaker journey is as much about who you are as what you do.
Honourable leaders and brothers and sisters, while your peacemaking journey is an ongoing one, peacemaking journey have a beginning and an end, offering a chance to reflect on what you’ve done and what you might want to do next. Peacemaking is, after all, a journey, not a destination. And your peacemaking journey must be viewed the same way. And all journeys start with that first step of commitment to go. This is why the Inter-Faith invited you here to Yambio!
In this sacred journey, my dear brothers and sisters, we have come to celebrate our unity in diversity. We have come here to disprove some of the modern cynics who accuse religions as the cause of conflict. We are here to affirm that peace is possible! The nine states are connected natural, nationally, socially and spiritually.
In the recorded history of human beings for the last 2000 years, there was never total peace in the world. Even as we gather today millions are affected by war in our African continent, in the Middle East. Our struggle as human beings is to live in peace. But conflict rages on. Brother against brother. The blood of Abel killed by his own brother Cain in the opening pages of the Bible is true in many parts of the world. Man seemed to have evolved with hatred as his primordial nature. Power, money and control contribute towards bleeding of nations. War killed more than 130 million in the 20th century. We do not know how many are killed or how many will be killed in the power games of the nations.
Great religions addressed this problem. Lord Jesus’ great towards compassion and mercy is a great contribution towards bringing peace. Jesus Christ and prophet Mohamed teaches compassion not only for the living beings, but even for living things like trees.
This conference brings together these nine governors, nine Rt. Hon Speakers, nine Minsters of local governments, and such leaders to engage in a dialogue for peace – and explore how to promote peace in this country, how can government and Inter-Faith Council help other stakeholders to understand one another. We are not gathered here as politicians; we are not gathered as state or non-state armed groups. We are nationals, seeking the good of all.
My task is to open the doors of reflection for the next two days with the message: My dear South Sudanese People: Peace is the way, Peace is the only way. Let us heal one another, not wound one another. With our theme: “Peace within and across the boarders”. I am sure other speakers will fortify our quest for peace through their insights for peace in their religions and in their socio-political set ups. Everyone will have a chance to share their views.
I come from the Catholic Christian tradition. Peace for us is born of justice is matured in love. Pope Benedict XVI assured that “Love – caritas – will always prove necessity, even in the most just society…. In addition to justice man needs, and will always need, love.” Building peace, promoting peace is part of our faith traditions. The birth of Christ was announced with “Peace to all men” and when Jesus rose from the dead he had only one strong message to his followers: Peace! Blessed are the peace makers’ said Jesus. With the great Francis of Assisi every Christian in South Sudan prays today: “Make me an instrument of peace – Where there is hatred let me bring love”. Mahatma Gandhi, the great apostle of Non Violence, drew his inspiration from Christ’s sermon on the Mount. As Christians we seek peace in this land. I invite all of you to pray with Francis of Assisi: ‘Make me an instrument of Peace! Where there is hatred let me bring Love”.
1. The past is a wounded past, but religions can heal a nation for a future of hope.
Our Land is a blessed land. It is resourcefully richabove the ground and below the ground. God and nature have given us enough to make all of us rich and prosperous. We are the envy of many nations for the great beauty and vast natural resources. More than anything this nation is blessed with a glorious spiritual tradition and a people known world over for their grace and hospitality.
Despite all these blessings we have a wounded history: The hard fought freedom, won through great sacrifices had a shocking beginning. The founders of this nation were killed by hatred. The conflicts that started sixty years ago continue to pester parts or all South Sudan. Shopping list of death is depressing In every part of this country, hatred buried our youth in unknown graves. Thousands are refugees, thousands are internally displaced. Our conflicts and war turned what was once rich country into one of the poorest in the region. We have sent thousands of our youth into modern forms of slavery. The menace of drug is becoming a silent genocide. Should we continue to wound one another through hatred? Can we as a people heal one another? Can we impress on those who peddle hate speech to become ambassadors of peace? Can religions help to see each one of us not as a Christian, Muslim, but brothers and Sisters of this great nation? Can this nation provide peace and hope to all?
I’m here to ask you to reject the notion that we’re gripped by forces that we can’t control. Our problems are man-made. Therefore, they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants.
At this conference, my primary message dear esteemed participants today is going to be to reject pessimism and cynicism; know that progress is possible, that our problems can be solved. Progress requires the harder path of breaking down barriers, and building bridges, and standing up for the values of tolerance and diversity that our nations have worked and sacrificed to secure and defend. Progress is not inevitable, and it requires struggle and perseverance and discipline and faith.
But this is a challenging time to do that. Because there is so much uncertainty in the world right now, because things are changing so fast, there is a temptation to forge identities, tribal identities that give you a sense of certainty, a buffer against change. And that’s something that our young people – we have to fight against. And fighting that mentality and that impulse requires us to begin very young, with our kids.
Our coming together is an attempt at democratizing peace-making in this country. Can peace start from each of our states to the rest part of South Sudan! I do not think people to people there is great hatred. This was proved during the struggle of over 45 years of civil wars. We want to involve ordinary people; we want to bring the voice of our people to peace conferences. We welcome that. This coming together is to impress upon those in power, those who make decisions that religions and our family values in this country desire peace and wish to work with the state and non-state actors to bring durable peace. Let the voice of the people be heard in all the peace conferences.
I wish to talk on some of the stumbling blocks in our peace pilgrimage: It was John F. Kennedy who once said “Those who do not learn from the blunders of history are condemned to repeat it”. This country has been waiting for peace for last sixty years. It is imperative to accept and remove some of the big road blocks in peace:
2. Major hurdles towards peace:
- a) Abuse of culture for hatred: No culture is violent, shouldpreach peace and harmony. But there are times culture can be abused by unscrupulous elements to enkindle hatred among people. All of us gathered here need to resist hate speech against any community.
- b) Denial of dignity of diversity: Nations that celebrated diversity as strength have US, Europe and many countries in the world have recognizable the dignity of diversity. Unity in diversity is the strength of the nation. Perceived preference for one culture and tribe and religion will surely bring discontent and violent response. We are over 30 major tribes’and 35 sub tribes. What a colourful nation and should we not celebrate our vibrant colours?
- c) Armed response – violence – war: For last sixty years, all stakeholders in the conflict have chosen armed response as a dominant method. Though many groups chose a cease fire path, some groups continue to nurture doubts in the peace process. Greater violence has not led to any resolution, but greater agony and displacement to the poor.
- d) Negativity in most of the people who have problem with the government especially those laid off in diaspora! Poor use of social media especially posting irresponsible abusive staff with no respect to the nation and self!
3. Role of Religion – what can religions do in this country for peace
- Religions – their humanizing efforts – brotherhood of humanity: “An eye for an Eye makes the whole world blind” said Gandhi. Hatred is an animal instinct waiting to flare in the human nature. Short sighted leaders have manipulated religions for provoking Religions exist to humanize men and women, not to teach vengeance.
- It seems as if there is disagreement and tension everywhere. Most days, I feel surrounded by conflicts that emerge globally, nationally, locally, professionally, and personally. Conflict is not something that exists outside of us. Fundamental to our existence, we are embedded in lives of disagreement and tension. It is in the nature of the self and society. We may hold the utopian ideal that war and famine should come to an end, but we can never hope for the end of conflict, for that would spell the end of the human condition. I often search for spiritual insight on the nature of conflict that is so endemic in the self and society.
- The whole world is full of controversy, between countries, towns, neighbours, and even within a household, between husband and wife, or with servants and children. No one pays attention to the ultimate fact that each and every day we come closer to death. Know that all these controversies are one: the conflict between a man and his wife is the same conflict as that which exists between kings and nations. For each one in the household represents a particular nation; their challenges to one another are like the wars between the nations… even one who has no desire to quarrel, but prefers to dwell in peace, is drawn into controversies and battles. Just as one sometimes finds among the kings and nations a country that wants to live in peace, and is forced to enter the war on one side or another (despite its willingness to be a subject nation), so it is with household ‘wars’.
- “Peace within and across the Border” this is the theme of this great Inter-state Governors’ Strategic Intervention Conference for Peace. So by embracing the conflicts inside and outside of us we can be a part of the transformation of self as well as world. We can, and must, pursue conflict and peace, one of the holiest endeavours within the human experience. I believe that the most sustainable and meaningful peace is one that arises from disagreement and conflict. Ultimately, it requires deep toiling and wrestling to find a spiritual and global peace, a peace that transcends borders and intertwines souls.
- All religions preach inner and external Peace, Islam, and Christian: For Christians, Christ’s word are clear: blessed are the peace makers. Peacemaking is the work of every believer. Islam beautifully instructs its follower: If someone does something that hurts you make a promise to yourself and Allah that you will never do the same hurt to anyone else.
Road Map from this Conference:
Since this is the first conference, we want to acknowledge that this is a long journey and we are here as governors and all the invited guests to draw the road map for that long journey. Next two days we shall be listening to various speakers and all of us will have a chance to discuss issues in the groups. Since it is inter-states and religious initiative for peace, we shall listen to various leaders from the nine States perspectives on peace in South Sudan much more in the region of Greater Bahr El Ghazale and Greater Equatoria. There are other stakeholders and we will be glad to listen to their view points.
I see the following tasks as pre-empted suggestions which could lead us to mutual resolutions of this inter-states Governors’ Strategic Intervention Conference for Peace:
- Conference will identify role of states in peace making: I do hope clarity emerges on this after two days. For me it is essential to link youth with the process of nation building. The future of our country depends on the capacities, moral values and compassion of the younger generation. Special attention needs to be paid to higher education and skill development at the level of States. But when we speak to young people, we need consistently to implore them to reject those calls to pull back.
- Open common boarder Market, joint economic project or programs, social activities for young people, Inter-boarder peace mobilizers, community boarder policing, mutual initiatives, these and others will boost peace in our States, etc.
- I believe this Interstate Governors’ conference is a starting point for a long journey. This journey is not to end with this conference. It is understood all of us will go back to work out local initiatives for peace, bringing all people on board but close collaborations.
- Combined statement on Peace in the land: I do hope this conference will end with a document – not for document sake but a road map for further action once we return to our places.
- How can sustainable development contribute to peace-building? FOR EXAMPLE: Development interventions can… Mitigate conflict drivers (e.g., social division, economic marginalization, lawlessness, spill over, poor or inequitable service or natural resource access) Improve local perceptions of security (e.g., through livelihoods development, reduction of environmental uncertainties, governance building, security and judicial sector reform) Yield tangible “peace dividends” that helps build a constructive social contract between stakeholders (e.g., development outcomes such as poverty reduction, public service delivery)
- Again all over our states, how can peace-building contribute to development? e.g. Peace-building (at any stage in a conflict) can surely improve inclusion of conflict parties in decisions and policymaking! Readjust public perspectives toward long-term issues rather than short-term coping mechanisms! Building confidence among all stakeholders, from civil society to government to donors, religious leadership, and international organizations.
- Mitigating our persisting Conflict through Sustainable Development and Peace-building must add an improved inclusion: e.g., by incorporating remote and neglected locations into development programming, re-integrating former rebel or armed groups especially those who have signed agreement with the government! Readjust public perspectives: e.g., by educating stakeholders on the risks of over-usage having long-term impacts! Build confidence: e.g., by supporting user collaboration! More devotedly concentrate on mitigate conflict drivers: e.g., by improving equitable support access! Also improve local perceptions of security: e.g., by developing and strengthening governance systems! Make every effort to yield tangible “peace dividends”: e.g., by upgrading livelihoods, education and public health.
- It must be kept in mind that the dynamics between sustainable development and peace-building is cyclical – Let me warn you, these are not mutually exclusive activities, but rather they are constantly interacting. For the most effective national sustainable development plans we just need to capture some of the numerous opportunities to support conflict transformation.
- Finally, working towards removing the road blocks for peace: Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi and other great leaders were not afraid of addressing the root causes of conflict. That wisdomis urgently needed in this country. This country needs to acknowledge that every human being born in this land needs to be treated with great dignity. All perceptions of any discrimination need to be addressed with courage. Issues on identity, culture and resources are to be addressed in a transparent manner.
Invest in Hope, invest in Peace – Peace is Possible, Peace is the only way. Yet with all the challenges, I am very hopeful. There is a dawn of democracy; I do not wish to believe that the solution to our malice is not close at hand. South Sudan would rise again to its great glory – its date with destiny has arrived. No one can deny its place in the world stage. Peace dividend will benefit all. A country with 40 percent youth cannot squander its wealth in wars that nobody wins. But this must be the believe I want to invite you dear esteemed Governors, Right Honourable Speakers of the Assembly and Ministers to sustain and hold to during and after this conference.
Peace is the only solution. That is our dream. Let us make it a reality.
I wish to end with the great quote from Martin Luther King Jr. paraphrasing his immortalwords: I have a dream this morning that the peace to South Sudan will become a reality in this day. And with this faith we will go out and carve a tunnel of hope through the mountain of conflict. With this faith, we will go out and transform dark bitter yesterdays into bright peaceful tomorrows. With this faith, we will be able to achieve this new day when all of ethnic groups, religious people, and others , will be able to join hands and sing with showers of hope:
PEACE AT LAST! PEACE AT LAST,
Thanks and God bless you all!
Barani Eduardo Hiiboro KUSSALA
Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Tombura-Yambio