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In 2015, the Community Development Programme (CDP) in Sarenga had organised a skills training seminar to train the local youth in repairing drinking water pumps. After receiving this training Marshall Tudu repaired the pumps in his village, thus, solving the drinking water crisis that the village had been facing for a long time. The happy villagers collected Rs. 300INR to pay Tudu for his services. This was the beginning of a new opportunity for Marshal, who so far had been limited to only seasonal farming. He decided to further hone his skills and become a professional water pump repairman. He soon started receiving work from neighbouring villages too after they heard of his skills; in this way he earned Rs. 2500INR at the end of 2015 by repairing eight water pumps in five neighbouring villages. With the extra income, he could support his family better and invest in a toolkit. In the span of a year, from 2016 to June 2017, Marshall has repaired over 14 pumps in 7 villages and earned around Rs. 4200 INR and used this extra income to invest in his farm. “I believe it would have been impossible for me to take care of my family if CDP hadn’t provided me with this training. People now call me “mistri” (repairman) and it makes me feel so proud, when I hear it because it just tells me how valued I am in my community”.

Two weeks before Christmas, on a sweltering summer’s day in Juba, 68 lay leaders and ministers from across South Sudan gathered to talk about peace and forgiveness. Finding inspiration from Matthew 18:21-22, the workshop focused on reconciliation and trauma healing. “According to scripture, forgiveness is limitless, compulsory, and two-way. It releases our hearts from sin. Repentance is the key to forgiveness,” explained the Rt Rev Peter Gai Lual Marrow, Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan (PCOSS). Operating in a context where violence and tribalism reign, PCOSS are working day in and day out to preach a message of peace and reconciliation.

Women and men, both lay and ordained, came together for five days to learn about forgiveness and reconciliation, peacebuilding, human rights and justice, conflict resolution, and trauma healing, using a faith-based and multicultural approach. Equipped with the knowledge and tools that they gained at the workshop, each participant has returned to their home church and community to share what they’ve learned.Achieving peace in South Sudan isn’t an easy task.

Our partners believe that the church can act as a tool for unification and peacebuilding among faith communities and communities at large. Their goal is to prepare church leaders for their role in the peacebuilding process by equipping them with the practical skills and knowledge they require alongside a renewed and strengthened faith in their role in God’s mission for peace.

In September 2016, UnitingWorld facilitated a workshop with the Presbyterian Church of Vanuatu (PCV) on Gender Equality through Theology. The theological teaching was facilitated by Rev Dr Cliff Bird, a prominent Pacific theologian and UnitingWorld Regional Coordinator, as well as Cliff’s wife, Mrs Siera Bird. Both Cliff and Siera equally led the teaching, modelling the theology as they stood side by side. The workshop was coordinated by Elder Martha, the PCV Gender Project Officer. Elder Martha’s husband is a local ‘big man’ in his village; a village leader with local power, authority and respect. Elder Martha’s husband attended the workshop as well, working in the kitchen providing the food and refreshments for the participants – traditionally women’s work. This change in roles had a strong impact on all the participants. After attending the workshop, one of the participants decided to put the theology they were learning into action. He got up early one morning, even before his wife and prepared the breakfast for his wife and family. This was the very first time he had ever done this. He had always seen it as his wife’s role to serve him. He served his wife breakfast and gave her the double share, usually reserved for him as the ‘head of the house’. During the workshop that day he reported that he had done this as he now recognised that his wife was equal to him in God’s eyes but had not been treated as so in the home. His wife then stood beside him and shared how this seemingly simple action represented for her, a revolutionary change.What may seem like a very small thing can herald hope and the promise of transformation for women in the Pacific. It’s not just theology, it is a mandate for action and even the smallest actions have impact.