The joy on these faces says so much about the wonderful weekend I have just spent at the first National South Sudanese Conference held in Brisbane at St David’s Uniting Church.

Building Bridges of Hope was our theme taken from St Francis of Assissi’s: “Where there is despair let me sow hope”. I said at the opening worship in my sermon ‘Blessed are the Peacemakers’: “Forgiveness and mercy becomes the ‘Bridge of Hope’ for us and for others”.

Friends the Uniting Church is so blessed by the rich cultural and linguistic diversity of our members. The people of the South Sudan who have made Australia their new home come to us having experienced the most horrific and violent of human conflicts in their nation. Sustained by faith they are an inspiration to me, they rekindle the flame of the Holy Spirit within my heart.

We were blessed to have with us Rev Dr James Makuei Choul who is the Director of Relief and Development for our partners the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan. James is a man of grace and wisdom who shared with us some of the history of the conflict and the pathways to peace. Recently we called the church to pray for the peace talks in the South Sudan which James was participating in.

I rejoiced with our sisters and brothers at the conference that at the eleventh hour a peace agreement was signed. However there is much that is needed for the full implementation and I ask that we all continue to pray for this agreement to be fully actioned and for the ministry of peacemaking by our partner church and other Christian denominations in the South Sudan.

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Our South Sudanese sisters and brothers in Australia within the Uniting Church and other denominations, some of whom joined with us over the weekend, are a sign and foretaste of the new community of Christ. They are bridges of hope to the motherland as their conference background paper said. Sometimes we see a “type” in the lives of people as God’s example of what the Spirit is doing in communities and nations.

Rev. Amel Manyon with such passion spoke of her tribe as Dinka and her husband’s tribe of Nuer and all they had faced because of this.

But she said for all of us who are the followers of Christ whatever our tribal origin there is no Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female, rather we are made one in Christ and through the power of the Holy Spirit.

To spend time with these wonderful folk over the weekend was humbling, emotional, enlivening and a blessing. May I encourage us all to connect with the rich cultural diversity that is the Uniting Church in Australia. Alexander Kumpf in ‘Eye of the Storm: Where is God when Life Hurts’ says: “God is always up to something and that something is always good”.

Shalom, Stuart


Stuart McMillan is the President of the Uniting Church in Australia.

 

 

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