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Sudan bishop to lobby against LRA

27 September 2013

Peacemaker: Bishop Samuel Peni

Peacemaker: Bishop Samuel Peni

AN ANGLICAN bishop in Sudan is part of an interfaith group set up to press Western governments to end the activities of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in Central and Eastern Africa.

The Bishop of Nzara, in the Episcopal Church of the Sudan, the Rt Revd Samuel Enosa Peni, said: "When there is no peace, that means we can't have Christians in the church, that means we can't have prayers going on. The role of the Church is to advocate for a peaceful environment, a peaceful community. Where there is hatred, where there is fighting, our role as the Church is to go there and make peace."

Bishop Peni is the deputy chairman of the group, which includes religious leaders from South Sudan, Uganda, the Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). When he became bishop in 2010, 33 of his parishes - a quarter of the total - were closed after people had fled from the LRA.

He will shortly join a delegation to lobby EU officials in Brussels, and was a member of a party that met US politicians and government officials in Washington to press for continued American involvement in the region. He fears that if international military forces leave, the LRA could reorganise and continue its atrocities.

His international advocacy work is matched in his diocese by a community-level healing programme for those affected by the violence. Participants are encouraged to share their experience of suffering as a way of dealing with the emotional legacy. "We are not a big organisation to offer things like relief aid to them," he said, "but we can do the spiritual counselling". His ultimate goal is to reach a point where people can forgive the LRA, and begin to move to a more productive future.

Much of his work is with women. "Sometimes even women don't bring out all the things that they experienced with the LRA in the bush: the way they were kidnapped, the way they were treated, the way they were abused, all those things."

Female facilitators bring the wo- men together to share their stories. "When they share this, and get to meet, they say: 'Oh, I am not the only one who has gone through this,'" the Bishop said. "If they have gone through it, and they are surviving, then we can move on."

Meanwhile, in a statement, the Southern African Development Community said that it was concerned that Rwandan troops were gathering before a possible invasion of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It called on the country's neighbours to "contribute to peace, security, and stability of the DRC."

The UN has accused Rwanda of backing the M23 insurgents in the DRC, and has sent troops to support the Congolese army in a fresh assault on the rebels.

Talks between the rebels and the DRC government resumed last week, after stalling in May, following an ultimatum from regional leaders after a recent upsurge in fighting.

Correction: our story "Sudan bishop to lobby against LRA" omitted to acknowledge that the source of much of the material, including the photograph, was the Revd Jesse Zink, writing for the Anglican Communion News Service.

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