DENVER – On Sunday, Oct. 8 Unity Presbyterian Church is hosting Achol Majok Kur Kier “Achol,” a South Sudanese woman who has been dubbed an international peacemaker and human rights activist by the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program.
Jay Sloan, Unity’s Elder For Mission, explained that the church is involved with a “strong peacemaking program.”
“It’s theologically-based and urges congregations to commit to the concept of peacemaking,” Sloan said of the international Presbyterian program.
Whether individuals take small steps toward peacemaking or the entire congregation makes huge strides in human rights, Sloan said commitment to the mission of peace happens on many levels.
The personal story Achol will share on Oct. 8 aims to give the idea some global perspective.
“Our congregation knows that Unity is designated as a Peacemaking church, but Achol's visit will help them understand what that means at a global level,” Janeen Dishman, one of the church members, said. “Achol's visit to us means that the work done by our Compassion, Peace and Justice Team as well as the church as a whole has an impact at a level that I suspect most members don't realize.”
Achol is one of about 12 peacemakers who will be touring the nation throughout October, and she will be visiting churches in North Carolina and Pennsylvania, Sloan said. Achol and the others are known for their work in human rights activism and more.
“These individuals are working all over world, promoting peace, standing up for human rights,” Sloan said. “They’re engaged in courageous work, going against brutality, discriminations, acts of terrorism, hatred against poor and underprivileged people who have no way to defend themselves.”
The Presbyterian Peacemaking Program, which is headquartered in Louisville, Ky., invites these people to the United States to remind people of the global need for peace.
“South Sudan is a county in deep trouble,” Sloan said. “After Syria and Afghanistan, they have the third largest refugee crisis...and about five million people are in various stages of starvation and famine.”
Those who attend Achol’s talk on Oct. 8 will hear more about what she sees in her home country, what type of work she’s engaged in and more.
Sloan said Achol fights for women’s rights and is working toward breaking cultural barriers, like pushing for women’s higher education. She’s also passionate about helping people heal from traumatizing situations, he said.
“She’s bringing hope in a lawless situation,” Sloan said.
Of the 230 nations recognized by the international community, South Sudan ranks 213th when ranked by wealth. The central African nation gained independence from Sudan in 2011 and has been engaged in civil war since 2013. More than 60 percent of South Sudan’s population, of about 12.6 million people, is Christian and most of them are Catholic.
Both Sloan and Dishman hope the event reminds people that their work matters and there’s more to be done. Ideally, church members will draw strength from Achol and her story as a woman battling against the odds, Sloan said.
“When you look at her picture with her lovely smile and colorful dress, you know she's working against all of the odds to promote peace and bring aid to the suffering.”
But Sloan also hopes Achol learns from and is inspired by the Denver community as well.
“By being with her, we’ll learn a lot and gain strength from being in the midst of this courageous Christian,” Sloan said. “But we will give her hope and let her know we care about her, her work and her people.”
Dishman echoed a similar sentiment.
“It is a chance to recognize a job well done as well as an energizing force for more work ahead,” she said.
The talk will begin at 12 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 8 and all who are interested are encouraged to attend.