“I admired justice, integrity and truth very much in some of the political leaders of the time. I truly wanted to follow them.”
Santino says. “Then when I read the words of John 5:43-44, in which Jesus speaks of accepting the authority of others rather than seeking the glory of God, I felt as though someone was talking to me directly. That is when my faith changed.” Rev Santino is now the Principal of the Nile Theological College in Juba, which is currently training 101 students for leadership and pastoral life. He’s part of the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan, a one million member organisation in a country which looks to its Christian leaders for hope, stability and guidance toward peace.
“We are currently training both men and women to help extend God’s kingdom in South Sudan and beyond,” Rev Santino says. “We do theological studies to prepare the ministers as well as equipping leaders to work toward peace.”
Hundreds of thousands of people died in the conflict that led to South Sudan’s independence in 2011, and many more continue to be displaced, wounded and killed in ongoing tribal fighting.
"We do theological studies to prepare the ministers as well as equipping leaders to work towards peace."
South Sudan relies on water, food and fuel from beyond its own borders and its economy has been unable to gain traction due to COVID-19 plus drought, a locust plague and flooding. In this context, it’s Christians who are on the front line distributing food, water and providing support to desperate people in refugee camps.
The church is also playing a central role in the Government Peace Process, and Christian women take to the streets every week in planned demonstrations to show their support for reconciliation and peacemaking.
“We must stay hopeful,” Rev Santino says. “I am always so encouraged in my work by the words of the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:58: “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”
Health & Education
The church is spread throughout the country, which is still very divided. It supports the life of new congregations and runs schools and clinics in refugee camps, assists people to grow food and runs projects to support clean water and education. The Presbyterians are part of the South Sudan Council of Churches and play an active role in government peacemaking, as well as training leaders in negotiation and reconciliation.
UnitingWorld helps fund workshops and training for peacemakers in the community, and supports the work of the Nile Theological College. Peacemakers also teach communities about child protection and gender equality.
1. Peace and Reconciliation
Until 2011, South Sudan was part of Sudan, which is now a separate independent nation. The young country is still deeply divided with armed militia aligned with different political leaders and traditional tribal groups struggling for control over land and the means to produce food. Pray for wisdom and grace for political leaders, and peace among the people.
Sudan Sudan ranks #185 on the United Nations Index of Human Development. Almost 80% of people rely on animal husbandry and farming for their livelihoods, and natural disaster as well as COVID-19 has decimated this economy. The UN estimates that 75% of the population is constantly hungry. Pray for the churches and NGOs that are working in dangerous places to provide essential supplies and livelihood options for people.
People find it hard to trust their politicians and leaders, who struggle to bring the unity that will enable South Sudan to move forward. These political divisions affect church leadership too. Pray for Moderator Rev James Makeui Choul and the new leadership team.
We can all do simple things to stand with our Partners and show support:
- Write a short note of encouragement to our South Sudanese brothers and sisters and email it to us to pass on to our partners at firstname.lastname@example.org