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Helping to bring peace to South Sudan this World Mission Sunday

12/10/2017 12:00 pm

A little girl in the Lyria parish, South Sudan

The people of central African state South Sudan have lived with conflict for most of the last 40 years, with the majority of people unable to recall a time of peaceful existence.

The crippling effects of economic and political instability mean that 2.2 million people have been displaced, both internally and externally; forced to seek refuge in church grounds, UN sites and neighbouring countries.

World Mission Sunday, 22 October, when the Pope’s official charity for overseas mission -Missio-, will be appealing to the faithful of England and Wales to ‘help bring peace to South Sudan’ through prayers and financial support.

Aged 80, Bishop Paride is one of the few South Sudanese who can remember peace in the country. Despite many obstacles, he is making a vital contribution towards encouraging a peaceful Sudan, “with one hand holding God and with the other holding humanity”.

Ordained in 1964, when missionaries were being expelled from South Sudan, Bishop Paride was one of the few priests left in the country. Living through two decades of war, he supported his community practically and spiritually, talking with all sides in the conflict. He was instrumental in instigating independence for South Sudan, which became the world’s youngest nation in 2011.

In the depths of war, in 1999, Bishop Paride founded a Peace Village, because of the “human suffering I saw”.

Started with 81 families, the Peace Village, in Kuron, is now home to people from 24 different tribes who live and work together. More than 3,000 people, some from outside of the village, come to access the services this remarkable project has brought to the area.

“People come from the borders of other countries where people call each other enemies. These people now call each brothers and sisters,” explains Bishop Paride. “They play football together, they have workshops together, they pray together.”

Bishop Paride’s spirit of peace prevented a revenge attack after a child, John, was kidnapped. Previously, John’s ordeal would have triggered ‘eye for an eye justice’ between tribes. Cattle would have been stolen or another child abducted or killed. But John was returned to his family in good health.

After crying for almost a week, John’s mother is happy again. “Without the Peace Village, our child would have just disappeared,” she says. “Although I am angry with the people who took him, I know we must learn to live alongside the communities around us.”

Says Bishop Paride: “What South Sudan needs today is forgiveness, repentance, to say ‘I love you, I miss you, I thank you, I forgive you, we forget the past together, I am wrong and I am sorry’. We are connecting people with love. My mission is to make disciples of the whole world, to make everyone into the image of God.”

Kuron’s local chief recognises the difference the bishop has made. “God has given Bishop Paride a call to establish the Peace Village. He is a beacon and an example to all other people in South Sudan to make similar communities. Bishop Paride has great love in his heart and shares God’s love with us all.”

Trauma counselling, a health clinic, a nursery and primary school and a vocational training centre can all be found in the Peace Village. “We now need funds to create a Peace Academy, so that we can roll out this model across the country,” says Bishop Paride. Added to the challenge, the threat of famine has become a reality and people now face starvation too.

The Pope’s worldwide collection on World Mission Sunday is an opportunity to support the church, by praying and giving, to proclaim the Gospel of peace throughout the world; to help Bishop Paride, and others like him, bring hope to those in need wherever they are, regardless of background or belief.

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World Mission Sunday Poster

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A3 Poster for World Mission Sunday produced by Missio