ECSS Gosene Parish, Juba South Sudan

Sermon by the Most Rev Moses Deng Bol

Archbishop of Northern Bhar El Ghazal Internal Province and Bishop of the Diocese of Wau.

 

Text Genesis 1:26-27, Mathew 22:36-40       Theme: The Great Commandment

  

Introduction

As you all know Jesus summarised the ten commandments into two by quoting Deuteronomy 6:5 when responding to an expert of the law’s  question of which was the greatest commandment.


36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind".  38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself".  40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Today I would like us to focus on the second part of the great commandment. We will look at WHO IS MY NEIGBOUR ? and how DO I LOVE MY NEIGHBOUR AS MYSELF in practical terms.


In Luke 10:29-37 The Expert asked Jesus a follow up question,  "who is my neighbour"?  Jesus answered that question with a question after telling the famous Good Samaritan story or parable. 36 Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?" 37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise". So according to Jesus my neighbour is anyone who is near me at anytime regardless of their tribe, race or colour, gender, age, height or size.

In Mathew 7:12 Jesus gave the answer to the question of how do I love my neighbour as myself in what is now known as the golden rule ". 12 “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets". So the rule is that you use your own feelings to determine how you treat others. In other words before you do anything to someone else, you ask yourself what if that person was to do it to me, will I like it or not? If not then don’t do it to him or her because he or she will not like it too. If yes then do it because he or she will like it as well. This is because all human beings are the same regardless of their tribe, race, colour or gender. This brings us to Genesis 1:26-27 which says that all human beings both male and female are created in God’s image.

The problem of South Sudan therefore is that many of us are Christians by name and by going to church on Sundays but we have not been taught to understand and obey Jesus teachings as he stated in the great commission in Mathew 28:16-end.

One time I preached to a group of elders under a big tree in a village called Noon Chol Guot in the border of Nuer and Dinka land in the defunct Twich County, in the then Warrap State on the great commandment. After explaining the meaning of the second part of the commandment and interpreting it with the golden rule, I asked the elders whether any of them would like the Nuer to come to his village and kill him, his wife and children, take his cows and burn his house. They all responded with a big NO. Then I asked them who among you would like the Nuer to come to Toch (the swampy/grassing area where Nuer and Dinka herders meet during the dry season) stay peacefully perfuming their  Nuer cultural dances and then say goodbye to the Dinka herders during the rainy season as they go back to their villages. All of them said that is what they wanted. So I told them to do to the Nuer what they want the Nuer to do to them as this is the meaning of the Great Commandment and the golden rule.

After I finished preaching the Executive Chief of the village called Manoon Ater stood up and said, Bishop for the first time someone has explained the word of God to me not only to understand but to enter into my blood. My question to you is this "is the Nuer Bishop preaching the same message on the other side?" he said this as he pointed to the Nuer village. I asked the Chief why he was asking that question. He said he believed that if the Nuer Bishop was preaching the same message to the Nuer as I was doing to the Dinkas it would take less than two years for the conflict between the Nuer and the Dinka communities to stop without any intervention of the police or army. I told the Chief that I believed the Nuer Bishop was preaching the same message to the Nuer and I also believed that the conflict between the Nuer and the Dinka will stop within less than two years if Dinkas obeyed the commandment even if the Nuer Bishop was not preaching the same message on the other side. This is because I believe that Nuer will not attack Dinka villages more than three times if Dinkas were to defend themselves from their attack but not take revenge by attacking Nuer villages also. Romans 12:18 says  "Do everything possible on your part to live in peace with everybody".

The Chief’s statement about the peace between Dinka and Nuer communities confirmed my belief that the solution to the South Sudanese problem lies with the Church (Committed Christians) NOT the Government or International Community. 

The other problem of South Sudan is ignorance of what is important to other communities. In 2008 I was facilitating a Church Leaders conference in Yambio. In that conference I told the Church Leaders, most of whom were from the Zande community that in the Dinka culture the most important thing is a cow and if you want to know that you sing Dinka songs and you will realize that most of them are either celebrating how good my bull looks, how rich (with cows) our clan is or praising young men for taking good care of cows. For example a wife of my uncle composed a song praising me for taking good care of cows saying that Deng Majok does not leave the cows alone even when it rains or when the sun is very hot

A cow is so important that every young Dinka man is given a name (colour) of his favourite bull alongside his original name during initiation from boyhood to manhood (Being given traditional head marks) and sometimes the bull’s name ends up replacing the real name. For example the name of our President’s father is called Kuethpiny and his bull name is Mayar which means white bull. As Kuethpiny Mayar grew older they replaced kuethpiny with dit which means an elder equivalent to the word Mzee in Kishwahili or Yaba in Juba Arabic. So they begin to call him Mayardit which means Mzee Mayar.  As you can see from my name I have added Majok which is my bull’s name alongside my original name Deng. Majok is a bull with black in front and behind and white in the middle.

A cow is so important to the Dinka that they believe that cows don’t destroy crops. For example in my village, there is a saying that thong weng aci rap e rac (meaning a mouth of a cow does not destroy the crops). So when cows or goats go to your farm and eat your crops people will comfort you by saying don’t worry the mouth of a cow does not destroy the crops.

Among the Zande a cow is not very important, in fact there is not even a name for a cow, they call a cow meat. What is important to them are crops and if you want to know this then you sing the Zande songs too and you will realize that they talk about the importance of a bambe and keymot (gnut paste).

I told my Zande colleagues, the Church leaders that it is very important for them to understand these cultural beliefs because they form the world view which becomes the mirror through which members of a particular community see the world.

So here is a Dinka man who believes that the mouth of a cow does not destroy the crops bringing his cows to Zande land where they believe that the most important thing is the crops. You can already see the result is the farmers-herders conflict. I told the church leaders that now that I understand what is important to the Zande community I can never allow my cows to even touch Zande crops. This is why we as ECSS welcome a genuine and inclusive National Dialogue (as stated in our position statement on Sunday, released on Sunday 18th June 2017, in Juba) which we hope will address the root the causes of the conflict and find a way forward based on unity in diversity.

So our role as Christians therefore is to raise awareness among our communities of the importance of respecting the values of other communities if they want other communities to respect their values because this is what the great commandment is all about. This is what I have been doing among the Dinka community using the creation story, the great commandment and the golden rule.

I am very much aware that other communities in South Sudan including you who are in this church today believe that it is the Dinkas who are responsible for all the bad things which have been taking place in this country including corruption, killings, raping etc, since the war broke out in 2013 because the President is a Dinka and most of the SPLA Commanders are also Dinkas. But you are also doing the same thing, you are killing innocent Dinkas who have nothing to do with the Government on the Juba-Yei and Juba-Nimule road etc. Let me ask you the same question I asked the elders in Twich, if an Equatorian, for example Vice President Wani Iga was the President, then some Equatorians did bad things and then the Dinkas came and killed other innocent Equatarians just because the President comes from Equatoria, will you like it? If not then why are you doing it to the Dinkas. If you are not happy with the Government then you attack the Government but not the innocent civilians simply because the President comes from their tribe. To me that is an act of cowardice.

Conclusion

I am appealing to all the Christians in South Sudan, beginning with our President to all the citizens to obey the great commandment by doing justice to all and the result will be peace, unity and prosperity. Jesus said seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and the rest will be given to you. 

Mathew 6: 31 "So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well"