Alier Mach Deng

Public Relations and Bishop Garang Anyieth as a Force of Stability in Controversial Emmanuel Parish Church

Alier Mach Deng
Alier Mach Deng

By Alier Mac Deng

Following the decision by Emmanuel Parish Leadership to invite the First Vice President Dr. Riek Machar to the victims’ backyard, some followers and a segment of our community were aggrieved and decried the detachment of the leadership to the plight of the victims and thus,vehemently protested through any peaceable means.

Leadership failure to address the concerns around his unexpected show up during the week prior to Sunday sermon, occasioned a group of individuals led by Mading Akech Ngor to bell up the cat probably on behest of the victims.The presence of venerated Bishop Nathaniel Garang Anyieth which the leadership had choreographed did not help matters either ; the leadership knew tempers would flare up that Sunday and its strategically let Bishop Garang presided over the prayers Sunday. Fearing despondence and subsequent chaos and a prospect of division both in the community and in the church, the leadership panicked and tasked its council to issue a reactive statement which I thought was more of a public relations exercise and a knee-jerk reaction.The Public Relations gimmick was very effective and the leadership got what it wanted in form of Bishop Nathaniel Garang Anyieth. What protesters and community wanted before Sunday prayers was a an explanation from the leadership because the damage had already been done.Instead,it ignored and condemned what it should have anticipated. If they had resolved it during the week,everything would be fine on that Sunday.
In its reactive statement,perched on top of the statement was a full photo of Bishop Nathaniel Garang Anyieth clutching a walking cane/baton, fully and immaculately attired in his religious vest, seated on chair likely in the church with the caption “Bishop Nathaniel Garang Anyieth : The Spiritual leader of Our Time.”
The statement was evasive of what led up to the protest in the church. It did not address the issues around unannounced show up and how they would inoculate themselves from insensitivity, injudiciousness, irresponsibility, depravity,sadism, activism and hypocrisy to avoid such incidents in future.Instead, it aggravated the situation by ripping the protesters, painting them as intruders and criminals whose membership was non-existent.What’s interesting to me is that both politicians and church leaders have come to recognize the bishop during times of crises but in good times he was at the periphery praying with the downtrodden in our communities.
There is a resemblance of calm now in our community regarding the scandal at Emmanuel Parish Church.Absolutely,the source of nominal calm is the presence of Bishop Garang’s image on top of its statement.
The church did not report what the Bishop said and whether it was a right thing to invite Dr. Riek Machar. There is nothing convincing in that statement than a mere photo of the Bishop Garang Anyieth; it’s woefully lacking substance. You see how church leaders mess everything up in the church and run to Bishop Garang Anyieth to rescue them from their own messes in which he was not part of. Lucky leadership, the church has been rescued without holding its leadership responsible; do not go and mess things up again people might not listen to Bishop Garang for the sake of listening. Church leaders and politicians are exploiting Bishop Garang Anyieth charisma, influence and leniency and the perception or reality that he is the gateway to Bor.
Our primary interest as new Jonglei people should be camaraderie, coherence and unity in purpose in this church and other public places because what happens in such places has deep consequences in the communities and further, a cause of division rather than fostering of co-existence.This basis should supersede Emmanuel Parish Church leadership interests and presumably its political leaning. Emmanuel Parish leadership should be aware that the implementation of peace agreement was not meant exclusively for new Jonglei State and therefore, it should guard against and refrain from what tears the fabric of our society than what rips and incinerates the whole agreement.

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