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Erhard Hermansen: “The church in South Sudan needs our prayers"

Erhard Hermansen: “The church in South Sudan needs our prayers"

From left: bishop Arkanjelo Wani, general secretary of Sudan Council of Churches, Erhard Hermansen, general secretary of the Christian Council of Norway and Fr. James Oyet Latansio, re-elected secretary general of the SSCC. Photo: SSCC

09 September 2019

Erhard Hermansen is general secretary of the Christian Council of Norway, which has been collaborating closely with churches in Sudan and South Sudan for nearly 30 years. Hermansen attended the South Sudan Council of Churches 2019 Assembly in late August, and shares his reflections and hopes below.

What aspects of the assembly gave you the most hope?

Erhard Hermansen: The theme of the assembly was "The Power to Forgive: Healing messages in the broken society in the spirit of forgiveness in genuine confession.” This theme is based on Matthew 6:12: "... and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us…" This was presented to the assembly through very good Bible teaching, and through common reflections and storytelling about forgiveness and healing.

The assembly had a strong focus on the importance of a united Church in South Sudan, and on raising a common voice in the work for peace. Stories about the united work for peace, healing, forgiveness and reconciliation brought a strong message of hope.

The South Sudan Council of Churches resolved “to work in a new way.” What does that mean to you?

Erhard Hermansen: Based on clear input from the assembly members, the South Sudan Council of Churches must strengthen its attention to the work in the communities, to enhance the capacity and support the work of the local inter-church and inter-religious committees so that they can build peace. Conflicts at local community levels need to be defused and handled so that they are not allowed to grow and intensify, or be used for partisan politics or personal gain. Communities need to be reconciled, and the people of South Sudan need to be reconciled and healed. They need support to deal with and overcome the trauma they are carrying, and the churches are critical in this work.

How did the cooperation begin between the Christian Council of Norway and the churches in Sudan and South Sudan?

Erhard Hermansen: The cooperation between Christian Council of Norway and the churches in Sudan and South Sudan dates back to the early 1990s when the church in Sudan called for solidarity from Norwegian churches in light of the high level of conflict. The Christian Council of Norway wanted to play as constructive a role as possible, helping reduce the violence affecting the communities in which our sister churches operate.

As a part of this close church-to-church collaboration, we did a pastoral exchange through regular pastoral conferences between our two councils. It was a time for sharing in quiet surroundings without pressure to negotiate, allowing church leaders to find courage and hope to continue the peace talks.

How can we, as an ecumenical movement, help the most?

Erhard Hermansen: The Church in South Sudan needs our prayers. We need to ensure that the global community is constantly reminded of the situation in South Sudan, keep it on the agenda, and not let it become a forgotten conflict. We can advocate to maintain or even find new ways of supporting South Sudan. We need to support the South Sudan Council of Churches in carrying out this critical mandate on peace-building and reconciliation in South Sudan, but do so wisely. The South Sudanese churches need to find their own way to fulfill this mandate, not have outside agendas pushed on them. The ecumenical movement also has an important role to play in eastern Africa, as the conflict in South Sudan has many regional aspects and linkages. All the neighboring countries are involved in one way or another.

South Sudan Council of Churches convenes first assembly eight years after independence (WCC press release 30 August 2019)

South Sudan Council of Churches Assembly issues resolutions (WCC press release 02 September 2019)

Resolutions of the South Sudan Council of Churches Assembly 2019

The South Sudan Council of Churches

WCC member churches in South Sudan