By Matt Chancey
The new year began very badly for South Sudan. The world’s newest nation (and one of the poorest) has suffered a fresh spate of bloody attacks between rival tribes leaving hundreds, some say thousands, of corpses in their wake.
The southern government blamed much of the internal unrest on its old rival in northern Sudan. The National Congress Party in northern Sudan has countermanded that the southern government is arming and assisting rebel groups fighting in the north.
But the root of the problem of internal unrest in South Sudan is, of course, spiritual. Regardless of whether northern Sudan is funding and arming rebel militias in the south, violence still requires a willing participant.
Christianity in South Sudan is still in its infancy. With hundreds of tribes and sub-tribal groups, the mistrust and old rivalries reach back centuries. Blood feuds between tribes make the Hatfields and McCoys look like a boring presidential debate.
To the western eye, these feuds can be misunderstood and over-simplified. For instance, one major source of angst against tribes is cows. Yes, you read correctly, cows.
Cattle-raiding is a rite-of-passage for many tribes. If a young man does not steal cattle from rival tribes, he is seen as a baby. He will be ostracized by his tribe and may never be able to marry because the single women will want nothing to do with him.
Cattle-raiding is an inseparable part of the culture. But as long as this pagan tenet remains a part of life, jihadists like Sudan president Omar al Bashir will gladly take advantage of it to destabilize his rival to the south.
So, what is the answer? The answer is in replacing the old, pagan traditions and customs with the Gospel. Pagan culture says cattle stealing and warring against rival tribes is the test of true manhood. The Gospel says that a real man works hard for his family in a legitimate trade, loves the wife of his youth, disciples and provides for his children, and leaves room for the widow and orphan in his community. Righteous Job said that he hoped his arms would fall from his shoulders if he did not provide for widows and orphans (Job 31).
In January PPF showcased our planned Jebel Lopit Training Center. One main purpose of constructing this institution is to provide practical instruction on how to bridge the gap between tribes. More importantly, our goal is to help supplant the old, pagan message that unending war and violence prove strength with the gospel message of strength through weakness, leadership through service, and getting through giving.
But we can’t do this job alone. In fact, it is not our job to do it alone. We are all part of the Body. The only way PPF can demonstrate the Gospel to people who need to see it is when you demonstrate it through us to them.
Thank you for your faithful demonstration to us and to our persecuted brethren.