WINNIPEG, Man.—The road in the Opari district in South Sudan is not well travelled. The dust from the Mennonite Central Committee’s (MCC) van announced the news that visitors were coming to this remote area about 100 kilometres southeast of the capital city of Juba.
As a writer for the MCC Canada communications team, I was one of the visitors meeting with a peace committee in Opari. This is one of 10 new peace committees that receive MCC-supported training on peace building and conflict resolution and use these skills to help people live in peace and harmony.
Just a few kilometres after turning onto the road to Opari, we stopped to pick up a group of well-dressed women. As the vehicle bounced along this road, we stopped two more times to pick up women who were dressed in their Sunday best. Although we were still many kilometres from the place where our meeting would be held, it soon became clear to me that we were picking up women who were walking to the meeting.
By the time we got to the meeting about 12 people were crammed into the back of the MCC van, along with buns, bottled water and other supplies we were bringing for the lunch.
My eyes filled with tears when I learned later that day that three committee members had walked 18 kilometres one way to meet with us. Many had walked eight to 10 kilometres.
The peace agreement that ended the 1983-2005 civil war paved the way for millions of people to return to their homes but this agreement has not brought peace at the community level.
Gladys Mananyu works for the Sudan Council of Churches (SCC), a MCC partner organization that provides the training and other supports for the peace committees. A visit from MCC’s communication team, she said, validates and acknowledges the hard work that is being done by peace committees. “It is their initiative but MCC is showing interest in their progress,” said Mananyu.. “It is very rare to have an organization asking questions at a personal level.”
She went on to say the effort that committee members made to meet with us takes the partnership between MCC and SCC to another level. “The relationship is not only between MCC and SCC, it is between MCC and the people,” said Mananyu.
Ultimately, I believe the partnership is not only between MCC and the people.
It is between the many congregations and individuals that support MCC and the people we meet. As we look for ways to share the stories and photographs entrusted to us, we humbly recognize that by hearing and sharing these stories, each one of us is contributing to peacebuilding efforts in Sudan and South Sudan.
Gladys Terichow is a writer for MCC Canada