Listening together to the pain of violent spaces

Photo: Lyn van Rooyen/WCC

Brought together by the South Sudan Council of Churches, women and men are sharing the pain of many years of war and associated gender-based violence in a series of workshops in Kenya and Burundi.

The workshops, hosted by the South Sudan Council of Churches and Fellowship of Christian Councils and Churches in the Great Lakes and Horn of Africa, with support from Bread for the World, and working with TAABCO Research and Development Consultants, are being held in Nairobi, Kenya from 27-29 February and in Bujumbura, Burundi from 2-4 March.

In the spirit of the World Council of Churches (WCC) Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace, the events create spaces to hear the voices of marginalised and traumatised women from Sudan, Nigeria and other areas where sexual and gender-based violence is particularly prevalent.

“We have come to listen,” said WCC moderator Dr Agnes Abuom in Nairobi. She said that after previous WCC Pilgrim Team visits, the situation in South Sudan – and the absence of women’s voices – particularly concerned some of the participants.

“There was a lot of reflection and prayer after our experiences, and we were thinking how we could continue to listen and gather the experiences of the people of South Sudan.”

There were painful stories of violence in situations of civil war, ethnoreligious conflict, internal displacement and refugee camps.

However, in the spirit of the pilgrimage, participants from as far as Russia and Australia also listened to stories of resilience and hope.

The vital role of prayer in the healing of trauma was repeatedly highlighted. Talking of the victims of sexual abuse, one of the faith leaders exclaimed: “These are our wives, our mothers, and in spite of the pain they experience, they are the leaders in prayers!”