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International peacemaker believes education is key to peace in South Sudan

Achol Majok Kur Kier to join peacemakers in U.S. next month

by Christi Boyd | Special to Presbyterian News Service

Achol Majok Kur Kier. (Photo by Christi Boyd)

LOUISVILLE – Born to Dinka parents, Achol Majok Kur Kier is not inclined to conform to expectations that define her culture. Strong-willed, at a young age she refused the matrimonial candidate her parents had hand-picked from within their clan. Instead, she pursued university-level studies in Khartoum, Sudan, becoming a secondary school professor in English, Arabic and history and marrying, at age 29, the love of her life from another ethnic group.

After having two children the couple refused to give into pressure from the in-law family to start a polygamous household and procreate a greater offspring. Beaming with fondness of her happy family life, Achol prides herself in serving as a model for younger generations of girls.

As the South Sudanese people voted to break away from the oppressive regime in Khartoum with hopes of establishing a nation with egalitarian governance, the church rejoiced in greater prospects for sharing its lifegiving mission. For Achol this particularly meant breaking with customs and written rules that perpetuate harmful and inequitable patterns; those that deny a shalom-for-all community hoped for among people of faith.

Not only do some traditions reinforce tribal identities, but they feed ethnic tensions at the expense of peace. Faced with grinding poverty, cultural practices may justify parents who offer their young daughters in marriage in exchange for cattle, thereby continuing educational disparity between genders. Still stifled by religious influences from the dominant Islamic culture in the north, legalistic conservatism in the church continues to exclude capable women from ordained ministry.

While the political elite and their warlords have been feeding on underlying sentiments to allow Civil War in pursuit of their political agendas and personal interests, Achol maintains that education is the entry point for transformation in society.

“If we want to give messages for peace and messages to fight corruption, we need to get the people educated,” she said. According to Achol, women play an important role in peacemaking and should already be encouraged to take up theological studies in preparation for the day when SSPEC’s constitution will include a provision that allows women’s ordination. And all girls should have the opportunity to get a basic education.

“Schooling empowers girls,” she said. “They have to be able to decide for themselves. Because we don’t want our girls, our daughters, to be hostages of wealth.”

Achol is an ordained deaconess in the South Sudan Evangelical Presbyterian Church (SSPEC). She serves as the elected chairperson for SSPEC’s women’s desk, and is an executive committee member in the South Sudan Council of Churches. She is one of 16 International Peacemakers touring the U.S. during the 2017 Season of Peace on behalf of the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program. The peacemakers will be traveling between September 22 through October 16.

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Christi Boyd, is a PC(USA) mission co-worker for women and children’s interests in Africa. Based in the Democratic Republic of Congo, she serves with her husband, Jeff, who is regional liaison for Central Africa.

This article will be published in the “God’s Mission in Africa” issue of Mission Crossroads, which will come off press early October. Mission Crossroads is a free magazine published by Presbyterian World Mission and mailed to homes in the U.S. three times each year. To subscribe visit pcusa.org/missioncrossroads.


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