Monday, June 15, 2015

Home to the largest population of South Sudanese in Canada, Calgary could potentially be a powder keg of tribal tension that could flare up into violence at any given moment. But instead, dialogue, discussions, the city’s first-ever South Sudanese ethnic gala and peaceful demonstrations in support of human rights have marked community life for the diaspora in this city.

This is in no small measure due to the trustbuilding and healing and reconciliation workshops organized by Janyce Konkin, IofC’s Regional Coordinator of Programs for Alberta.

Most of the work of healing wounds and building bridges of understanding within this community -- torn apart by years of internal strife in their home country-- is being coordinated by ‘graduates’ of these workshops. In the forefront of these community building activities are Augustino Lucano, Khor Reat Top, Nhial Wicleek, and Gatluak Bichoik; also Nyabuoy Gatbel who met IofC through the Friends of South Sudan Network.

Asked to share what difference IofC has made in their lives, Khor said that he learned to look at similarities instead of differences. “An important lesson for me was that people who don’t reflect, react instead. It is important to start with myself,” he added.

Gatluak said that he learned to look at how he internalizes his feelings and emotions and recognized that he needed to accept himself first, to heal his own wounds first. He said that he now chooses his words wisely and listens more before speaking. Augustino has internalized the power of QuietTime (an IofC practice that promotes listening to one’s inner voice) to reflect on how he can continue to focus on unselfishly helping others, in Canada and in South Sudan and Kenya, where many South Sudanese refugees continue to live.

An important result of IofC’s workshops is that a dialogue has been opened up between two South Sudanese community associations in the city to build a unified group that will work together to meet everyone’s needs.

Throughout 2014, the South Sudanese community organized and participated in several important events including the Sudanese ethnic gala on August 16 and the Nuer genocide Memorial on December 20. The latter event --commemorating the massacre of 20,000 members of the Nuer tribe during the South Sudan civil war-- was groundbreaking because the members of various tribes stood together as one to protest in peaceful and constructive ways against the violation of human rights.

“We are working extremely hard to bring awareness, unity and peace to the diverse South Sudanese communities through events targeting certain topics and workshops,” said Nyabuoy Gatbel, adding that 2015 is busier than ever in this regard.

Janyce Konkin - Calgary, AB