Tag Archives: reconciliation


As representatives of the ELCA journey to South Sudan to break ground for a Lutheran Center in Juba, they join representatives who are already witnessing to hope of peace and reconciliation in a war-torn area. Of those working in South Sudan is Bishop Samuel Peni, bishop of the Nzara Diocese in the Episcopalian Church of South Sudan (ECS). As a part of his travel to the U.S, Bishop Peni joined Wartburg students and faculty on Nov. 2 during a luncheon sponsored by the Center for Global Theologies to share his perspective on the intersection of the ECS and the current situation of South Sudan. A 2009 graduate of Wartburg Theological Seminary, he noted that his study here helped enhance his ability to live out his call in the ECS. While at Wartburg, he knew full well that he would be returning to a country ravaged by violence. But what he did not know, however, is that the level and character of the violence in South Sudan would change in the time that he was studying in the U.S.

As Bishop Peni spoke of continued dissension and conflict in his home country, he continually returned to themes of power, religion and tribal differences. Though Sudan has a long history of violence resulting from various power struggles, the region has most recently been negatively affected by two civil wars. Following a brief period of peace after the first civil war, the second civil war began after President of the Republic of Sudan, Gaafar Nimeiry, declared Sudan an Islamic state in 1983. The civil war continued until 2005 when the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed in Nairobi. Though this document was signed, Bishop Peni attested to the continued violence even after 2005. By July 2011, South Sudan declared its independence from the Republic of Sudan.

However, since South Sudan gained its independence, conflict surrounding the availability of oil resources and tribal differences has continued. During the civil war, the Sudan’s People’s Liberation Army/Movement committed violence against many villages in an attempt to disarm rebellions. As a result, inter-ethnic fighting has intensified. Bishop Peni spoke to this reality, noting that people often look at each other first in light of their tribal association.

In an attempt to help foster an environment of peace and reconciliation among tribes, Bishop Peni helped organize leaders of different church bodies to work together against the effects of continued violence and discrimination in their country. He took this group of leaders to Rwanda where they learned about the effects of the Rwandan genocide and how Rwanda has healed from its past and embraced new beginnings. From there, these leaders engaged in conversation and training, helping them embrace a future of peace and reconciliation in South Sudan.

Now, Bishop Peni notes that he, along with other church leaders, are integral in the effort to unite tribes and influence government on the county and state levels. Bishop Peni explained that while the church’s connection with legislative bodies has changed over time, that he and other church leaders have been invited to offer prayer at government meetings. In doing this, Peni stated that this gives him – and other church leaders – an opportunity to state their voice in the midst of discussion.

As the church continues its work in South Sudan, Bishop Peni stressed the need for theological education of church leaders, asking numerous times for students, pastors and professors to come to South Sudan to teach. He spoke very highly of his education at both Wartburg Theological Seminary and of his short time at the University of Dubuque Theology Seminary and stated that the future of the ECS is intrinsically related to its continued education. Additionally, he stressed the ECS’s continued role in systems of government to advocate for peace and reconciliation. Finally, Peni noted that the ECS has a good working relationship with the Catholic Church, helping to foster more relationships in pursuit of peace. With a connection of both education and work for justice, Peni witnessed to a hope for a new day in South Sudan.

As Bishop Peni continues his work, he noted that he must often consider his and his family’s safety. He noted that often needs to sleep in different homes throughout the journey of a trip in South Sudan to protect himself. He spoke of how his bodyguards protect him so that he can continue to do his work, and he shared that his family is temporarily living in Uganda based on the volatile situation in South Sudan. But even in light of this, Peni spoke with hope concerning his work and the work of the ECS. He openly asked for prayer and for people to learn the story of the Sudanese, imploring us to embrace a vision of peace and reconciliation for all peoples as a part of God’s good creation. As people united in Christ, we join Bishop Peni’s quest for peace and give voice to the continued story of struggle in South Sudan.

PERSISTENT FOR PEACE by Tammy Barthels, M.Div. Middler and Prof. Norma Cook Everist

“It is a delight to come home to Wartburg. Wartburg has strengthened me and formed me in who I am today.”

Dr. Winston Persaud introduced her Excellency Marie Jilo Barnett to the Wartburg community at a dinner given in her honor this Spring.  Appointed in 2008, she is Sierra Leone’s first female ambassador to Liberia, as well as to Core d’Ivoire. Marie studied at Wartburg from 1990 to 1994, when she received her M.Div. degree.

Reverend Barnett was passionate and invoked hope with each word that she spoke about teaching men and women to co-exist in the Image of God. “It is possible,” she said.

Ambassador Barnett is zealous about negotiating peace and promoting women. She was the first Lutheran woman to be ordained in Western Africa. Her position as Ambassador is about building bridges between Liberia and Sierra Leone; this, she said, is the essence of her appointment.

She encourages women to take action. “Do what you can. Avoid Chaos. Pray with one another, do not pray alone. Get everyone of all races and religions involved. Say ‘NO’ to injustice.”

Ambassador Barnett is called to serve. She did not campaign, nor did she join a political party. She is doing what she believes is hers to do. She depends on her faith and is strong in prayer. “Seek the kingdom and all will be given to you.” Her faith gives her the strength to sit on parliament and represent women and their rights.  She believes strength comes when women come together and support one another. She said, “We do not do it on our own.”  She is involved with a network of women: women lawyers, women doctors, and women from the market. “Together we make a difference. In the nothingness that we have, we share, and we have much.”

Marie has seen a lot of hardship and constantly worked in ministries of reconciliation.  She sees the need to build bridges of peace.  In her role now as Ambassador and also through Lutheran World Federation she has had many opportunities to serve.  “God has been with me everywhere I have been all over the world.”

Ambassador Barnett had worked with Laymeh Gbowoee, well-known Lutheran laywoman who led the peace-movement in Liberia. She said to Gbowe, “Don’t sit alone.” Barnett and other women supported the women from Liberia in the peace talks. Ambassador Barnett now works with Liberian President Serlief. Gbowe and Serlief both became Nobel Peace Prize recipients.

When asked what is most important for her theologically, Ambassador Barnett said, “Justification by grace through faith.  If we have faith, the Holy Spirit will guide us.” She told of times when she needed to speak publicly in crucial diplomatic situations.  “The Holy Spirit would guide my words.  Be strong in prayer.”

Marie’s husband, Tom, also received his M.Div from Wartburg in 1994 and now serves as the bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sierre Leone.  Dr. Dan Olson, WTS professor emeritus, preached at their ordination in Sierre Leone.  In a church of lay leadership, the Barnetts were the first to be ordained.   Marie served as pastor of Faith Community Lutheran Church, Freetown.

While at Wartburg Marie said that she and Tom were welcomed and supported as international students.  She said, “The international students saw some American students for whom ends did not meet.”  Together with others started the food pantry for students , which continues to this day.

When asked about the demands of her busy life, Marie responded, “When I’m helping people, I’m revived.”  She  concluded with Christ’s mandate: “Go and baptize all nations. Do not be afraid. I will be with you to the end of the age.”

From 1996 – 2002 Marie was a member of Parliament in Sierre Leonne, serving on various Committees asfollows:

1. Foreign Affairs and International

Cooperation Founded the Network of Women Ministers and Parliamentarians and served as Vice President.

2. Health and Environment Pioneered the settingup of the National AIDS Secretariate.

3. Education – Participated in the oversight that saw the University of Sierra Leone

locate campuses in the different Geographical Regions.

4. Defence – The only female member of the drafting committee of the much celebrated

“Lome Peace Accord” that brought lasting peace to Sierra Leone in 2002.

5. Works and Infrastructure – Pioneered the setting up of the Social Action for Poverty

Alleviation under the National Commission for Re-integration, Repatriation and Resettlement.

6. Social Welfare, Gender and Children

Set up the network of women Ministers