South Sudan (MNN) — The first verse in South Sudan’s National Anthem calls upon God to uphold them unified in peace and harmony. But nearly from the beginning of its statehood, South Sudan has been inundated with violence.
In 2013, just two years after South Sudan gained independence, a civil war referred to as “The Crisis” broke out. Today, things remain unstable.
Jeff Stam of Set Free Ministries says when he was invited to visit leaders in the country awhile back, he thought about all of the challenges the new country faced: socioeconomic issues, geopolitical challenges, and conflicts between tribes that have helped feed the flame of violence and hatred.
Stam says as he thought about these challenges, “I also began to realize there are also significant spiritual problems that have come to the forefront because of generations and generations of animosity and hatred and bloodshed amongst their own people.”
Children are growing up thinking it’s fine to hate. Christians are caught up in the conflict.
While the subject of spiritual warfare is foreign to many Westerners, it is something Set Free deals with on a regular basis as they counsel people undergoing demonic oppression.
“Our process is all based on establishing what your true identity is in Christ and that authority that goes along with that, and recognizing truth over lies and the importance of repentance and the importance of forgiveness,” he says.
Stam felt God calling him to discuss up these topics with church leaders on his visit. He started the conversation by bringing up their national anthem.
“I asked them if that was true, if they were really praising God with their current situation, if they were being held together in peace and harmony.”
They said no. Stam helped them see that not making these things a priority and yet singing them was actually telling a falsehood. They agreed. He also explained there is a very real spiritual side to reconciliation.
“We talked about the importance of having the spiritual leaders — the pastors — begin to address the spiritual issues like what their identity is in Christ, what their authority is over spiritual powers oppressing them and also their country, and the truth of who God made all people to be. He doesn’t distinguish between the various tribes they have existing there.”
Part of this talk included the importance of forgiving even the years of harm transacted between tribes. For these pastors, it wasn’t a harsh word, but an important reminder.
“They received it as truth, because in looking at this, we were taking these principles not just out of what we thought was logical but what Scripture says. So they received that well, admitted there was an issue.”
In fact, these pastors wanted more leaders to join the conversation. And so sometime later, Stam was able to meet with several bishops, some of whom are on the East Africa Peace and Reconciliation Committee. They want to bring the topic of forgiveness and spiritual warfare to the committee.
Stam explains, historically, the Gospel has been well received in South Sudan. However, sometimes it is limited by the deeply rooted conflicts found there. But just as any of us do, they need to be reminded of the whole Gospel.
“Pieces of the Gospel include love, and charity, and forgiveness, and all those characteristics God showed to us are part of what the Gospel, Good News, is all about. And if people will start sharing those, accepting those characteristics as their own characteristics, I think you could see dramatic change in the climate of South Sudan.”
He recognizes some of the issues cannot be fixed immediately, but if people start to accept the whole Gospel, it will relieve oppression and pressure.
This is a reminder — first of all to pray for South Sudan and the Church leaders there to encourage Christians to seek reconciliation and a forgiving heart. Second of all, it’s a reminder to all of us, no matter what hardship we face, to seek the same.