Finn Church Aid, Council of Churches team up to roll out peace project in states
Finn Church Aid joined partners and other peace agents around the globe in marking September 21, 2021, as the International Day of Peace. This year’s celebration was held under the Global theme: “Recovering better for an equitable and sustainable world.”
The theme speaks to South Sudan especially those who are still trapped in conflict, even though the R-ARCSS gives a glimpse of hope and potential for socio-economic and political recovery. FCA joins the rest of the world to strengthen the ideals of peace through observing 24 hours of non-violence and ceasefire.
The history of FCA resonates with South Sudanese particularly Christians. FCA was founded on September 25, 1947, when the Lutheran Church of Finland officially joined the international assistance network of churches. After the Second World War, Finland was in ruins. There was a shortage of food and clothes as the country had been impoverished by war.
The Lutheran Church decided to mobilize for peace and recovery of the impoverished survivors of the World War. Money, clothes, and foodstuffs, mainly from Sweden and the United States were delivered for the needs of the poor country through the Lutheran Church of Finland. Finnish ex-pats living in the United States were particularly active in handling donations.
Descriptions of the Finnish conditions and needs, letters of gratitude from recipients of assistance; and stories of how the assistance had affected lives were sent to American sister churches to help fundraising campaigns. In addition to administering emergency assistance, the social work of the church was strengthened which, in turn, developed the capacity of Finns to help themselves.
Moving from the 1950s to the 1960s, the Finnish Church matured from a recipient of assistance into a provider of the same. Today, Finn Church Aid channels 60 percent of Common Responsibility Campaign revenue to the poorest people in the world. It is also the largest Finnish provider of development cooperation and the second-largest provider of emergency assistance, and a member of ACT Alliance, a network of church-affiliated aid organizations.
In this light, Finn Church Aid has been working closely with the South Sudan Council of Churches (SSCC) to advance peace and reconciliation among South Sudanese. This is done broadly in the implementation of the SSCC’s Action Plan for Peace (APP) through supporting specific initiatives that support wider participation of Youth and Women. The APP envisions “a peaceful, prosperous, and reconciled South Sudan built on inclusive citizen engagement at all levels”. It signifies an approach to ending violence in South Sudan by building on the decades of church experience in peacebuilding and reconciliation through engaging all stakeholders. Through this broader APP vision, FCA and SSCC are collaborating to implement a peacebuilding project in the three larger regions of South Sudan: Central Equatoria (Juba), Upper Nile (Malakal), and Western Bharl El Ghazel (Wau). The initiative is titled “Advocating for Promoting Peace and Reconciliation through Civil Society, Women and Youth of Faith” dubbed as APPEAR. APPEAR was developed to support the SSCC in the realization of their homegrown Action Plan for Peace for South Sudan. Through this collaboration, the two partners seek to actively engage youth and women of faith in advocating for and promoting peace.
While this group of selected people is at the grassroots, their position gives them the opportunity to create platforms where they can engage with community members as well as claim space in national platforms to advocate for peace. APPEAR embodies FCA’s understanding that peacebuilding is a long-term process involving strengthening the capacities of conflict-affected societies and other groups who often do not have the opportunities to equitably contribute to decision-making processes, and to deal with conflicts non-violently, and develop resilience to conflict-related shocks.
APPEAR and its mandate
Through APPEAR, Finn Church Aid and SSCC have accomplishments such as recognition and celebration of International Youth Day as well as International Day of Peace. The latter gives us an opportunity to renew the hope that South Sudanese will at one time live in a conflict-free society. This day is not a day for us to lament in despair but rather a day for us to stand in solidarity and forge an organized path for confronting the lack of positive and negative peace that has surrounded us.
As the Church in South Sudan, a lot of progress has been made but the challenges requiring the Church to exert its role in peacemaking and conflict resolution are monumental. The story of the post-World War Lutheran Church in Finland reminds us this day of our immense responsibility as carriers of the light of hope for the downtrodden. Peacebuilding is a field of partnership and building friendships because it requires alliances and unconditional generosity. When we become more of partners as a united body of Christ, we will be able to win the “souls” of those who love war to and for peace.
FCA’s operation includes long-term development cooperation, humanitarian assistance, and advocacy, and we operate through an integrated approach with a view to building sustainable peace through stronger partnerships and collaboration with local communities, faith-based institutions, and government institutions in the implementation of peacebuilding and humanitarian interventions. FCA has supported humanitarian and development programs in Sudan since 1972 and in South Sudan since 2010. FCA has been implementing education, peacebuilding and reconciliation, food security, and livelihoods programs with a presence in Jonglei, Lakes, Upper Nile, and Central Equatoria State.
FCA remains committed to work and partner with SSCC – which provides a platform to enhance the spirit of ecumenical cooperation towards collective action for peace – and the people of this country, in advancing the call for peace. We remain committed to supporting the implementation of SSCC’s Action Plan for Peace, and importantly the work of the Youth and Women Desks in SSCC.