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Home  >  News  >  Peace Training 'Will Make a Difference'


Peace Training 'Will Make a Difference'

Wednesday March 21 2018

Church leaders from South Sudan who attended peacebuilding training in Scotland over the past two weeks have said that it will ‘make a difference’ to the war-torn country.

The Rev Santino Odong Othol Kwanyang and the Rev Joseph Maker Gordon Manyiel were among the group invited by the Church of Scotland to take part in two weeks of training.

They were also hosted by various churches during the visit, attending and speaking at services, spoke at a World Mission event in Edinburgh, went on retreat to the Bield in Perthshire and even had time for some tourism and shopping.

The group also got first-hand experience of the best of Scottish weather, in the snow that has hit the country in recent weeks – not that they were complaining.

“When (the Very Rev Dr) John Chalmers was taking us from the airport, he was telling us ‘you will see sunshine’,” said Santino, “But we said ‘we don’t want sunshine, we want snow!”’

Santino, Principal of Nile Theological College, said that the visit had been ‘exciting… busy, but a kind of enjoyable busyness’. “It was informative,” he added. “We got a lot of tools and skills that will enhance our work when we go home.”

Joseph, Moderator of the Presbytery of Abwong, said: “We acquired many experiences, especially in the field of life mapping. We now have the tools on how to heal wounded hearts, and how to manage complex conflict, and also the real meaning of mediation. We were thinking the mediator should make the decision, but mediation is about helping the two parties to agree on a solution.”

South Sudan gained independence from the Sudan in 2011, following decades of civil war, but two years later political unrest spread into civil war. That has led to economic collapse and famine, with millions of people being either internally displaced or refugees in neighbouring countries.

Joseph said: “I am 58, I was born in war and we still have war.”

Santino said that the current situation was ‘fragile and still very weak peace… there is relative stability in the big towns, but in remote areas you still find violence’. He also said that the situation had been complicated by tribal conflict.

The Church of Scotland has taken an interest in the country since its inception, and Dr Chalmers visited during his year as Moderator of the General Assembly.

Following this visit, the hope is that the church leaders who visited Scotland will be able to train others in South Sudan, and that there will be further training sessions either in Scotland or in Africa.

Santino said: “I think the churches appreciate this so much, because most of us were engaged in peace issues, but without training. For sure what we have learned will make a difference.”

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