A ‘memorial day’ and feasting the traditional mourning process to heal and building peace in South Sudan

“THE THEEME:  LESS, WE FORGET:  Joshua 4:1-9”

By Rev Matthew Mathiang Deng, The Nuer Council of Elders

November 4, 2015 (SSNA) — All over South Sudan today people are cooing complacent refrain, saying it will be all right. It willbe all right, but I seriously wonder, will it be all right? Every person needs to mourn their dead. If the mourning process occurs properly, then the world that is torn apart by death is made whole again. We in South Sudan have had profound and beautiful traditions to honour our dead. Since the long war we have not been able to engage in the mourning Process on ceremonies that have always been used by our different tribal groups. Everyone in our Country has been terribly affected by the wars. There is no one who has not lost someone close to him/her. There is no one who has not suffered greatly. We are united in our grief and inability to properly mourn the dead we love.

The serious observer who loves South Sudan must ask the Question, “Will it be all right?” On the memorial-day we shall review our nation, history, heritage and hope, lest we forget what happenedDuring the Juba massacre and the continue war. In our time the Christians, the Muslim and the Tribal people, all people are engaged in funeral ceremonies for their deceased relatives or loved one. In our ceremonies we always called together the members of the family and the community to mourn Together.

For over 64 distinct Ethnic groups 597 sub-groups of South Sudan who believe there is life after death  .The exact rituals of mourning are very important. After a person dies, it is essential for the living to assist that person in raising children in his name Important. In rising children helps the dead reach their ancestors who have passed away before them .The dead cannot reach the ancestors without our ritual help. In the Traditional way of feasting and Prayer the living and the dead are united in harmony with each other. At the core of the Traditional mourning ceremony, of blood sacrifice, this sacrifice was often associated with the commemoration of an ancestor. And this is that the dead person should go to the father in Heaven he/she should not look back bodly to the living.

The sacrifice is a common bowl from which we eat. This common bowl reminds us each day as well as on the day of mourning, that we are nourished by our common life. On the feasting day of mourning, every one also comes before the common bowl. Before we take our Food we know we must be pure of heart and ready to eat with everyone who is there. On the feasting day of mourning, we recognize each other’s pain and loss, this recognition is the first Act that leads to forgiveness. Thus, we have a long and honorable Tradition that in its simple and beautiful way. Supports the family and the community and heals what has been injured. Our feasting Tradition of mourning is also a way of peacemaking.

When we feast together, we gather all those who have been separated and distant from each other. When we feast together, we come to know each other; we settle all our disputes and resolve all our conflicts. When we feast together we see how we will care for and support the family and the community that has been undone by the death. When we feast together, in mourning process we become a family, a tribe, a community, even a nation again.

As a result of the civil war, over 3,5 million South Sudanese died either by a direct bullet, silent weapon Disease, or starvation, some died in the bushes, and some died under water, some have no graves, some were dumped in mass graves. We have had no proper funeral ceremonies for most of our loved ones who died during this terrible war period. The failure to perform these ceremonies causes us great pain. We cannot rest when we know that we have failed to perform the necessary funeral rites. We cannot rest when we know that our dead cannot rest. The pain and suffering of the war continues in our hearts and souls because we have not been able to serve our dead and our ancestors.

The people of our Country are living in a state of anguish, many of us are displaced. Many of us can hardly find food to feed ourselves and so we have not been able to have a funeral feast. We are separated from our land, our tribes, and our communities our work, our rituals and ceremonies. We are hoping to begin a national process of mourning, little by little in small groups, we are hoping To come together to mourn our dead properly to come and send them off with our prayers across To heaven or earth where our ancestors are rested. We will do this in the old ways and with great respect for all the different ways of mourning. We will gather wherever we are in the fields, in the bush, in our homes in the camps, in churches and mosques and meeting halls, we will find ways to come together, to prepare food, to pray, to do our rituals, to feast together. This will be a beginning of speak to each other and build peace. By feasting from the common bowl, praying for a calm heart.

Beginning to put our pain behind us as we send our dead across to heaven, we will begin the process of uniting our family’s communities and tribes. Feasting from the common bowl, we will begin to heal from the trauma of the loss of our loved ones. Feasting from the common bowl, we will unite and strengthen our family ties again. Feasting from the common bowl, we will begin to restore the well being of our communities as we begin to discuss how we will fix our lives and take care of each other. Feasting from the common bowl, we will begin to reconcile our differences and pains. Feasting from the common bowl and sending our dead across to heaven, we will begin to create harmony in the ways that our ancestors have instructed us.  For example the Nuer believe that when a man or a women dies, the flesh, the life and the soul separate the flesh in committed to the earth, while the breath or life goes back to God. The soul that signifies the human, individuality and personality remains alive as a place of the ghosts, wherever that place is.

Reverend Matthew Mathiang Deng is the Chairman of the Nuer Council of Elders.

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