“God gave this land to us”: A Biblical Perspective on the Tension in South Sudan between Tribal Lands, Ethnic Identity and the Breadth of Christian Salvation

In: Mission Studies
Colin Robert Godwin

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Saphano Riak Chol
Carey Theological College Vancouver

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Like many parts of Africa, South Sudan has experienced ethnic animosities which have led to violent clashes, destruction of property, and loss of life. Many of these conflicts are over land and resources and are rooted in a spiritual attachment to traditional tribal lands which are seen as gifts of God to both steward and protect.

In dialogue with an African theology of place, this paper seeks to propose biblical foundations for ethnic coexistence, as seen in Acts 17:22–31, and to examine how Paul’s Athenian sermon balances the ethnic particularities of land and tribe with the universal call to Christian salvation. Drawing on twenty interviews with South Sudanese nationals, this paper uses an integrated research method, accessing theological, biblical, and sociological perspectives to ask whether Acts 17 might suggest an approach to issues of land and tribalism in South Sudan.

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