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22. A biblical approach in settlement of disputes and conflicts

My life (put) alongside God's word. Protecting peace section.

by Anthony Poggo

We begin with Scripture.

“Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to

persuade others. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience. We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart. If we are “out of our mind,” as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that One died for all, and therefore all died.And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live

for themselves but for Him Who died for them and was raised again”.

“So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the

world to Himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made Him Who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God”, 2 Corinthians 5:11-21.

The title I have given could be re-worded more broadly, “Reconciliation - the Christian perspective”. Before we go any further, let us look at the meaning of the word

‘reconciliation’. The Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary defines reconciliation as “an end to a disagreement and the start of a good relationship again”.

Consider the following two statements on reconciliation followed by six problem areas and finally, ten practical suggestions:

1. The reconciliation ministry of Christ

Christ’s purpose in coming to the world is to reconcile us with God the Father. This He did by coming to us on Christmas day to be born as a child. We read in verses 14 and 19 that it is because of Christ’s love through His death on the cross for the world, He achieved this reconciliation. But only those who take God’s free offer for salvation know and experience the significance of His love. Nathaniel Garang, retired bishop of the diocese of Bor, once said that we are all “people of God” but only some are “children of God”. When we are reconciled to God we graduate from being people of God to becoming a child of God.

When we become the children of God, we should then live for Him. In verse 15, we read, “those who live (as the children of God) should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again”. Verse 17 triumphantly declares, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come”.

It is God who takes the initiative of reconciling us to God. He takes the initiative of the redemption, verse 19. Redemption is the restoration and fulfilment of God’s purposes in creation. God takes the initiative and He sustains it. When we receive the ministry of reconciliation from Him, we also are given the privilege and obligation to now become God’s instruments to proclaim the message of reconciliation. We become ambassadors, verse 20. This is the message of the ambassador of reconciliation, “Be reconciled to God”.

2. Reconciliation is the core ministry of the Church

Reconciliation is within the core function of the Church. The Church takes such a mandate from the ministry of Jesus Christ whose main mission was to reconcile mankind

to God. The then New Sudan Council of Churches (NSCC) made tremendous contributions in this area through the people to people grass-root peace making process.

Amongst this was the Dinka-Nuer West Bank Peace and Reconciliation Conference held in Wunlit, Bahr el Ghazal from 27th February to March 1999. This was needed for peace to be achieved in what was then Sudan. Reconciliation is needed between the politicians, as there has been a lot of distrust amongst groups of different political and military persuasions. The Archbishop of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan and Sudan was appointed by the Government of South Sudan (GoSS) President to head a religious committee to bring about peace, reconciliation and national healing. This is a vote of

confidence in religious leaders to play such an important role in our nascent nation.

In the areas that were held by the Sudan Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA), the relationship between the SPL Movement/SPLA and the churches in the 21 years of war were, generally speaking, cordial. A significant development was the holding of the Kajiko conference between the SPLM/A and the churches. In this conference, there was openness in discussing issues that were helpful in building their relationship.

The war that broke out in December 2013 has taken us back to a situation of distrust within ethnic communities, tribes and people of different political views. The Church

and all Christians must desire to work hard to bring peace and reconciliation. Our Lord Jesus Christ said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God”,

Matthew 5:9. Sons have the characteristics of their Father.

We need reconciliation so that our new nation works well. We need reconciliation so that families, communities and clans can live amicably with each other.

1. Reconciliation is needed in the family and in communities

Reconciliation is needed in the family so that our families are at peace. One of the ways the evil one wants to attack the believers is through disharmony in the family. Pray that the Christian family will show a reconciled family at all times. What is a Christian family? It is the family where Christ is in charge. It is also a family where there is regular prayer and Bible reading. There is a saying that, “A family that prays together stays together”. A Christian family is a family where there is good communication. We need to talk to each other. We all need each other. Someone has said, “Husbands are like wood fires, when unattended they go


We talk about reconciliation in the family because conflicts in a Christian marriage or family are inevitable. What is important is that they should be handled well, resulting in

genuine reconciliation. Talking to and forgiving each other is needed. It should not be like the story of a woman who was said to be wearing her wedding ring on the wrong

finger. When she was asked, she said this was because she married the wrong man!

2. Poverty is a key contributor to conflicts

Poverty is one of the problems facing almost all parts of South Sudan. In addition to achieving peace, we have the wars against poverty, ignorance and disease to fight. The

Oxford Advanced Learners dictionary defines poverty as “the state of being poor” or “the lack of something”. But what is the meaning of the word “poor”? The same

dictionary gives one of the meanings of this word as “not having enough money for basic needs”. I would like to see poverty understood in a broader sense than just the lack of


The majority of the people in South Sudan fall within this 1.1 billion people in abject poverty in our world. The situation is made worse by ongoing conflict, HIV/AIDS,

drought and other natural or manmade calamities. Poverty is made worse by the unequal distribution of wealth, resources, land, and with poor economic and political

policies. Poverty fuels resentment, and this provides a favourable environment for conflict. Wars contribute to the destruction of lives and properties hence increasing the

level of poverty.

3. The Nazarene Manifesto

Luke 4:18-19 is referred to as the Nazarene Manifesto. Jesus said that His ministry was not only aimed at the spiritual need, but at both physical and spiritual. Preaching

of the good news should be holistic. You cannot go and preach the good news and leave the person to die due to lack of food. The Nazarene manifesto also means that

prisoners should be freed from their physical and spiritual oppression. This may mean campaigning for those who are wrongly arrested or arrested for their faith, and bringing

pressure to bear on Governments that are mistreating their people.

4. The Millennium Development Goals

One of the ways that the United Nations identified to fight poverty is through the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). All the 191 members of the United Nations (UN)

have pledged to meet the MDG by 2015. Although time is not on our side, the eight MDGs were as follows:

1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger

2. Achieve universal primary education

3. Promote gender equality and empower women

4. Reduce child mortality

5. Improve maternal health

6. Combat HIV and AIDS, malaria and other diseases

7. Ensure environmental sustainability

8. Develop a global partnership for development

(For an up to date progress visit: )

The eradication of poverty and hunger is top on the list of these goals. The next 6 MDGs are also closely related to poverty. This is because either they are caused by poverty or are as a result of poverty. The eighth and last MDG calls for a need to develop a global partnership for development. It is only possible to undertake this goal when progress has

been made on the seven other goals.

5. Education

MDG number 2 is related to education. We can solve some of our problems in South Sudan through Universal Primary Education (UPE). We could go a long way if we aimed at having a Primary school per Boma and at least one secondary school per Payam. During the 2010 campaigns the SPLM said that UPE would be a top priority. Although some progress was made, to date this has not been done. It is important that this is done; the Church should be seen as

an ally in doing this. The Church in the past has contributed to education in many ways. The Anglican and Catholic churches played a key role in education in what was Sudan, especially in the southern part of our former country. There are now many church related Colleges and

Universities in Africa.

6. Diseases

Another problem we face is disease. MDGs 4, 5 and 6 have a link with this. One way we could address this is by starting Primary Health Care Units (PHCU) in all Bomas of South Sudan and a Primary Health Care Centre (PHCC) in all Payams. Many people die due to a lack of adequate and available medical facilities. Malaria and other preventable diseases are rampant in many of our areas and could easily be prevented with adequate facilities and health education. Linked to this is the HIV/AIDS pandemic. The Church is playing an important role in raising awareness of the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

What should we do?

For us to achieve the above suggestions we need to have changes in some of our attitudes and also to change the way we do things. In the next section, I would like to outline some of these things that we need to do.

1. Go back to the land

The 21 years of war have meant that we have a whole generation of people who grew up either in refugee camps or in camps for Internally Displaced People (IDP). We must give training and opportunity for productive agriculture, growing crops and keeping animals.

2. Work hard

For us to catch up with the rest of the world in development, we will need to work extra hard to make an impact in our country. We also need to have a change of attitude and see work as part of our responsibilities and not as a curse. We all have individual roles and responsibilities. Everyone can make useful contributions to the development of our country. The Bible encourages hard work. In fact Paul writes in 2 Thessalonians 3:10 that

any person who does not work should not eat. Though the saying that “Laziness is the mother of poverty” is far too simplistic, it does sound a warning that needs to be heard.

Working hard is partly about working ‘smarter’. We could achieve greater output if we learned how to use time more efficiently.

3. Keep time

We also need to keep time so as to catch up with the rest of the world. The idea that the more senior a person is, the more you should delay a function to show your importance,

will not help us if we are to work hard to develop our nation.

4. Avoid corruption

One of the key problems facing us is the issue of corruption. This is in all aspects of our lives. An important role of religious bodies is to fight against ills like this that bedevil

our society.

5. Avoid negative ethnicity

Another issue that is of concern is the issue of negative ethnicity, otherwise known as tribalism. This is often seen in Government appointments or in the distribution of

public resources. Governments appointing people or providing resources and development only to their own areas of origin help create this problem. Some of the wars

in Africa are fanned by tribalism. We saw what happened in Kenya during December 2007, where there were ethnic killings, and also what happened in South Sudan since

December 2013.

6. Avoid intertribal tensions

Recently there have been several intertribal tensions and attacks in many parts of South Sudan. We need to find out and treat the root causes of these things. One of the root causes of tension is the inequitable sharing of resources. This is why it is important that fairness is seen happening in the sharing of resources. Another root cause of intertribal tension is the whole issue of cattle raiding.

7. Avoid nepotism

Related to tribalism is the issue of nepotism. This is seen through the appointment of relatives or close friends into jobs and higher positions. There is a saying that “blood is

thicker than water”, but we need to see those best gifted and experienced getting into the right roles.

8. Play your own role

If we want to build our nation, we have to make our individual contributions to the work. No one will do it for us. God will not send us angels to do it miraculously but He will use you and me as builders. He has given us talents that are to be used for playing these roles. South Sudan needs more servant leaders and fewer bosses. In fact, most

Governments refer to their workers as ‘civil servants’. The expectation is that you provide service to the whole community of people.

9. Encourage the role of the Church and religious leaders

The Church should act as a watchdog for society. Other African leaders have encouraged the Church to play the role of a watchdog. The late President of Tanzania is quoted as saying, “everything that prevents a person from living in dignity and decency must be under attack from the church and those who work in the church”. Bishop John Henry

Okullu also quotes the former Kenyan President, when he was Kenya’s Vice-President, as saying that “Politics and Religion should not be separated”. According to Mr Mwai Kibaki, “It is through the involvement of the Church in public affairs that Africa can regain its soul”.

(See John Henry Okullu, 'Church and State in Nation Building and Human Development'.

The Church and its followers must be influenced by their faith. In Africa, it is unheard of for a person not to pray at the beginning of any public events or during the opening of

parliaments. In Khartoum, most Moslem ministers would have places for their prayers next to their offices. A two day national prayer conference was held in Juba early in May 2014 with regional pastors giving assurances that “peace has come to South Sudan,” promising no more war for the embattled country. At the opening of the function the Presidential Advisor on Religious Affairs, Rev. Fr. Mark Lotede Locapi, blessed the event on behalf of the President and the Government, and confirmed that prayers could

help bring peace, love and reconciliation among the people of South Sudan. Other similar events have happened.

10. Pray your prayers

Most of the national anthems would have God mentioned in them. Our own national anthem starts with the words, “O God we pray and magnify you for your grace on South

Sudan.” In Kenya, the anthem begins by saying, “God of all creation”. In Uganda it is, “Oh Uganda may God uphold you”. In Sudan it is, “We are God’s army, army of the

nation”. Since our national anthems bring God into our nation’s daily life, surely we as the Christian Church must bring God into everybody’s life as much as we can.


God expects us to be reconciled to Himself through our Lord Jesus Christ. But that is not all. He also expects us to live lives reconciled with ourselves and with one another.

Reconciliation is vertical with God and horizontal with our neighbours and in our families. The church should take this ministry seriously. Since God has given the ministry of

reconciliation to us let us receive it, and work hard at it during the time He gives to us.

Discussion questions

1. What problems may arise in a nation, or a region or even a family, if there is peace without genuine reconciliation?

2. Why did the Lord Jesus say, “If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift”? Matthew 5:23-24.

Since reconciliation was a priority for Him, how can we make it so for ourselves?

3. How is it possible for those with money and those without to develop in life together? See the Millennium Development Goals above.

4. Rt. Rev. Anthony makes ten suggestions for promoting harmony and eliminating conflict. Which of the ten would be your top three?


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