Friday, 29 September 2017

South Sudanese Women finding their voice in the UCA

Rev. Amel Manyon led the Holy Communion service at the closing worship of the South Sudanese National Conference in Melbourne, assisted by Uniting Church President Stuart McMillan.

Amel was the first South Sudanese woman to be ordained in the Uniting Church in March 2012. Before her ordination, moved by God’s call, she founded the Northern Suburbs Dinka-speaking Faith Community in Adelaide.

She has served as the minister there for the past five years, in a growing community with high numbers of young people.

Amel is a recognised leader in the South Sudanese community in the Uniting Church. Following in her footsteps are more South Sudanese women taking on greater leadership within their faith communities.

Amel says this is because the Church provides a space for women to speak on the issues that affect them.

One of the questions raised at the National Conference was about the tension caused by the different cultural expectations of men and women in South Sudan and Australia.

Amel said it was common for this tension to affect relationships in the family. Women often found it difficult to raise their concerns in the family or community environment, where men were still dominant.

“Sometimes the women feel let down by the men because they are not given the chance to speak.”

However, when women came together in their faith communities, it gave them the opportunity to talk about the problems they are facing.

Women in Amel’s Dinka-speaking Faith Community meet every Tuesday for Women’s Fellowship with a larger gathering held every two to three months.

“Having the fellowship helps women with so many things. It empowers women to know their roles and responsibilities. They feel safe to ask questions.”

“They also found out about other opportunities for women in the Church, for example the Uniting Women’s conference.”

Amel said being a minister, and a woman, helped her address some of difficulties around cultural expectations.

“My role as minister does help, even the men appreciate the role that I am in.”

"I am mother, a grandmother, and a minister, so I have a chance to speak to all members of my community. I am very grateful I am accepted by the community. God has given me the wisdom to speak with them and what I am doing is respected.”

With continued encouragement, and the space for their voices to be heard, hopefully it is not too long before the Uniting Church welcomes its second South Sudanese woman minister.

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