Featured story: Bill Lowrey works for peace in Jonglei State
South Sudan became the world’s newest country in 2011, after a largely peaceful referendum in support of splitting off from Sudan in the north. Independence represented a new dawn for the people of South Sudan at the end of decades of conflict with the north.
The hope and excitement for South Sudan is still palpable in the new nation, but conflicts—many violent and intractable—persist. Longstanding internal tribal divisions have escalated into brutal attacks, centered on cattle raiding and exacerbated by high-powered weaponry. The conflicts spiral out of control as tribes carry out retaliatory raids, furthering the cycle of violence.
In Jonglei State just this month, dozens have been killed in tribal violence, and many thousands—some estimates as high as 150,000—have been forced to flee their homes. The state had been declared a national “disaster area,” but the South Sudanese government is all but powerless to curb the fighting due to a fundamental lack of resources and infrastructure. Humanitarian aid groups face similar obstacles in responding to the needs of the wounded and displaced.
Peacemaker in Action Bill Lowrey has worked for many years to make peace on the ground in Sudan and South Sudan, and he is responding to these crises. In recent months, he has conducted trainings and workshops in South Sudan with religious leaders and members of the government, encouraging local leaders to revive traditional conflict resolution methods to settle disputes nonviolently.
Back in the United States, Bill has worked with members of the Sudanese diaspora to push for peace back in their home state of Jonglei. This Jonglei Peace Initiative, made up of members of the four main tribes of Jonglei State, recently met in Washington, D.C. and issued a statement condemning the violence and outlining the first steps toward peace. The group plans to send its own members to Jonglei to advocate for peace at the community level. Click here to read the full statement.
The conflict in Jonglei is bloody and fierce, but Bill Lowrey and the Jonglei Peace Initiative are working to put an end to the violence and foster peace between the tribes. Their efforts align with the vision of South Sudan as a new nation united to create a better future.
Hind Kabawat, Syria
As the violence in Syria persists, Hind continues to advocate for peaceful solutions. She wrote an article discussing the crackdown of security services on opposition student protestors and calling on both sides to seek a resolution through forgiveness and reconciliation. http://www.omeganews.info/?p=893
Pastor James Wuye & Imam Ashafa, Nigeria
In the aftermath of the Christmas Eve bombings in Nigeria, two authors held up Pastor James and Imam Ashafa as an example of interfaith cooperation in Nigeria. The first was Tanenbaum President Georgette Bennett, and the second was Imam Mohamed Magid, President of the Islamic Society of North America. To read their perspectives on the violence and James and Ashafa’s reconciliation efforts, click the links below.
Betty Bigombe, Uganda
Betty urges the government to involve youth in all of its activities, saying, “Most youth are creative and can cause positive change in society. I challenge ministries which haven’t engaged them to do it immediately.”
The Global Peacebuilding Center at the United States Institute of Peace posted an excellent short video of Betty describing her experiences negotiating with the LRA. http://vimeo.com/33796663
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton quoted Betty in her keynote address at the International Crisis Group’s “In Pursuit of Peace” award dinner. Betty is mentioned in relation to her critical role inside peace talks between the government and rebel negotiators.
Rev. Canon Andrew White, Iraq
Andrew has been awarded the International First Freedom Award by the First Freedom Center, a non-profit organization founded to advance religious freedom. The Center recognized Andrew for his extraordinary reconciliatory work in the Middle East. Congratulations Andrew! http://www.firstfreedom.org/education/ffacurrent.html
See photos from the award ceremony: http://keithpp.wordpress.com/2012/01/14/canon-andrew-white-awarded-first-freedom-award/
Rabbi Menachem Froman, West Bank
Rabbi Froman hosted female musicians in Tekoa’s synagogue to protest the increasing exclusion of women from the public arena. According to Rabbi Froman, Jewish precepts are not meant to keep men and women away from each other, but “to protect the main thing, which is the connection” between men and women.
Rabbi Froman also spoke out against “price tag” activists, who present settlers as “gangsters” who cannot live together in peace with Palestinians. http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4164498,00.html
Protestors in West Papua marched in late November to commemorate the 50th anniversary of their independence movement. Benny is quoted by Survival International about the mounting tensions between Papuans and the Indonesian government.
Less than a week later, Benny relayed details about a remote Papuan village, which had been burned in retaliation for the deaths of two police officers. The people of the village fled into the bush and are now refugees. http://www.ucanews.com/2011/12/06/more-violence-in-restive-province/