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ACROSS South Sudan

Is peace possible, in a world increasingly ravaged by conflict?

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Returning from a visit to South Sudan, where decades of violence and instability had eroded people’s sense of security and hope for the future, Phil Lindsay and Marshall Currie witness how the long-term work of Tearfund’s local partners has helped to make a path out of poverty for communities scarred by war and desperate for a lasting peace.

When Tearfund’s long-term local partners ACROSS and Sudan Evangelical Mission (SEM) first started working in what is now South Sudan, people were embroiled in the long-running war with the North that claimed more than two million lives, displaced some four million people, and destroyed much of the basic infrastructure that existed.

In 2011, six years after the war finally ended, South Sudan became an independent country. There was jubilation at the time, but the years since have been marked by instability and ongoing violence. Climate shocks, including drought in some parts of the country and flooding in others, have crushed livelihoods. Three quarters of the population are facing food insecurity, which is at its highest level since the country gained independence.

Sudan Evangelical Mission - Mundri Town

Marshall Currie 2024 SEM

A few years ago, when International Program Manager Marshall Currie visited Mundri town, where SEM is working, he observed the lingering impact of conflict on the community.

“Back then, rebel groups were operating in Western Equatoria state, and many people had moved away seeking safety,” he said. “The town seemed lifeless, with very few people moving around and many of the small shops that lined the main street locked shut. We ate our meals at the same place every day because it was the only place open, and there was a curfew in place so once the sun went down the normally busy streets were empty.

But returning to Mundri in March 2024, Marshall noticed a vitality that had been restored.

The contrast this year was stark: Mundri no longer had that deserted feeling; instead there was the hustle and bustle of a town that was finding its feet again. There were no closed shops, in fact many new businesses had sprung up and the main street was a hive of activity once again, full of the sights and sounds of people going about their daily lives. The curfew had been lifted so the town was alive long into the evening.

Marshall Currie International Program Manager

ACROSS - Lakes State

Over many decades, through war and upheaval, ACROSS and SEM have remained courageously present, choosing to respond to the challenges of vulnerable communities because God’s faithfulness motivates their own, and they trust that God will uphold them in the work he has called them to.

“A similar situation was evident in Lakes State where ACROSS is operating, and where inter-tribal conflict has hugely disrupted normal life over many years. Through effective peace building by government and by civil society organisations like ACROSS, the fear of insecurity that was a like a chain holding community life back had been broken and people were reclaiming their normal lives – working on their farms, going to school, doing business in the market, transporting goods and food, and visiting friends and relatives. Important cultural activities like wrestling had also returned, which is a sign of peace but also an important part of building and maintaining social cohesion.”

This is a place where poverty is deep, and yet people are making a real difference in their lives. Things are changing.

Phil Lindsay International Program Team
Yomima South Sudan

“The visit brought home to me how poverty is all-encompassing, from government systems and lack of resources to the thin margins that people live in each day. It also reinforced the difference that the work of partners like ACROSS and SEM can make to people’s ability to work together to bring hope and tangible benefits to individuals, households and whole communities.”

That hope is seen in the faces of school children like those in Maleng-Agok, where ACROSS has been training and resourcing teachers, and working throughout the community to support and encourage families to send their children, especially girls, to school.

Hope is seen in families whose health is better thanks to access to immunisations, basic medicines and traditional birth attendants to help women as they give birth.

It’s seen in farmers who, after years of war and insecurity, are now enjoying increased food production and improved incomes.

SEM5

Rebuilding lives after conflict

Andrew Marial is part of the ACROSS team working in this region. He says he’s seen how peace in South Sudan has created the conditions for people to start rebuilding their lives.

“As I work to implement projects, I’m happy to see that life is changing,” he says. “Many girls are going to school, people’s health is improving, people are producing their own food instead of depending on what’s been given to them. Those things really encourage me.”

Phil Lindsay says it has been powerful to see how peace and vibrancy can be restored in a place like this.

“It’s hard to believe, as I watch people working together in their fields and life seems really normal, but it wasn’t that many years ago that this area was broken by conflict,” he said. “People were terrified. Young men and boys were hiding, and being hidden, by their families to prevent them being recruited into either side in the conflict. People were having to flee and run into the bush.”

Building peace in communities

With this experience of violence and fear still fresh in many people’s minds, the work of both ACROSS and SEM in peacebuilding has been so significant. Both organisations run peacebuilding training and support communities to form peace committees, which look out for potential sources of conflict and dispute within and between communities, and find ways to resolve them proactively.

Deng Maniong took ACROSS’ peacebuilding training in 2021, and then became part of the peace committee in his village.

“It is significant for the community to continue to engage in community dialogue,” he says. “It is significant also for the community to remain at peace without getting involved in tribal conflict. There is a great change in terms of conflicting communities visiting each other. Stealing of animals such as cattle and goats has stopped. It is also important that revenge killing has stopped.”

SEM 2024

That this sense of peace is so hard-won, after decades of war and uncertainty, makes it all the more valuable. But it is a fragile peace, too. Elections are due to be held in South Sudan later this year, after having already been delayed, and there is fear among the people of a return to violence depending on the election process and outcome.

“Our partners and others that I spoke to are feeling uncertain and nervous. It’s something they are watching closely and praying about, and developing contingency plans for, depending on what happens. While there wasn’t a clear view of whether they should or shouldn’t go ahead, there was one thing that they were all clear about: people are tired of the fighting and don’t want any more.”

Faithful partners like ACROSS and SEM show that peace is possible. And while peace in South Sudan is fragile, a monthly gift to Tearfund means that partners can stay faithfully present with the people of South Sudan, as they’ve done for decades, supporting them to farm, send their children to school, and strengthen their communities.

Pray with us

  • Pray for a safe and stable South Sudan, and for a lasting sense of peace and security for people who have lived with conflict for so long. With elections due to be held in December, pray for stability in the country, for a just and transparent process, for a fair outcome, and for the enduring peace that the people of South Sudan desperately want to see.

  • Give thanks for the work of Tearfund’s partners ACROSS and SEM over so many decades, and that their initiatives in health, education, agriculture and peacebuilding are bearing fruit. Pray that the people of South Sudan will have the opportunity to flourish and live their lives to the full.