Rev. Amel Manyon from the Northern Suburbs Dinka-speaking Faith Community in Adelaide, the first South Sudanese woman to be ordained in the Uniting Church, said the coming together of diverse South Sudanese communities was a show of peace and reconciliation among their communities.
“It is a great time to be together as South Sudanese Christians and as South Sudanese people to give thanks and praise to God,” Amel said at the start of the conference held at Hoppers Crossing Uniting Church in Melbourne’s western suburbs
“We are gathered together from all areas of South Sudan, different languages and diversity and we want to give thanks together as the people of God.”
Uniting Church President Stuart McMillan was present for the whole conference. His message at the opening worship on Friday night entitled “Christ’s love compels us” drew on 2 Corinthians 5:11-6:2.
“Paul was writing to the community in Corinth that was experiencing division and dispute and he sought to encourage them, to exhort them, through Christ’s love for them, to not live for themselves but for Christ.”
To those gathered, he said: “My sisters and brothers your community here in Australia shows us, the members of Uniting Church, how to be witnesses to Christ’s love by striving to be a fellowship of reconciliation.”
Young people from the Nuer-speaking Faith Community in Brisbane led the opening worship with joyful singing and dancing which continued throughout the weekend.
Anglican Bishop Right Reverend Lindsay Urwin led a session on Saturday reflecting on the messages of reconciliation in the Bible. Bishop Urwin has served in South Africa and speaks with affection of his relationship and experiences with the AmaKhuze Tribe.
This led into sharing on what it means to be the reconciling people of South Sudan living in Australia.
Ideas were shared on practical ways to bring about greater unity among their communities. Breakout sessions were organised for men, women and the NextGeneration members (under 30).
National Consultant Rev. Dr Apwee Ting led a session encouraging those gathered to see themselves as a new community in the household of God. Read Apwee's blog Hope drives reconcilation and unity.
Megan Calcaterra from UnitingWorld spoke about the new work undertaken with Church Partners, the Presbyterian Church of the South Sudan (PCOSS), to equip church leaders to be ambassadors of peace. She also spoke about the emergency response to the famine in South Sudan and the longstanding impact of the PCOSS’s midwifery school addressing the high rates of post-natal deaths and of mothers dying during child birth.
“We thank God for the passion and commitment of those gathered in Melbourne to strengthen the South Sudanese network in Australia, firstly within the Uniting Church and also ecumenically,” said Stuart.
“They are also focussed on supporting and growing their younger members as followers of Jesus.”
Young people under 30 will make up three of six positions on the new executive for the South Sudanese National Conference.