Praying for peace in Sudan and South Sudan
23 July 2012
“East Africa’s newest nation #6, the United Nation’s country #193…” So flashed the statistics on the independence countdown clock in South Sudan’s capital, Juba. New recycling and rubbish bins lined the streets under signs reading “Keep Juba Clean and Green” and the Church declared a Day for Prayer and Cleaning in a symbolic act of purification and reconciliation.
A party to celebrate South Sudan’s independence.
The world’s newest nation was born on 9 July 2011, welcomed with festivities and celebrations and a special Mass the following day in St Theresa’s Cathedral of Juba. When Cardinal John Njue, Archbishop of Nairobi and the Holy See’s representative to South Sudan, rose to say the homily and to bless South Sudan’s independence, the congregation erupted in cheers and applause. But the Cardinal warned that far to go.” The Mass was the culmination of a calendar of events of spiritual preparation for the independence declaration, when the bishops of Sudan asked for people of all faiths all over the world to join them in praying for peace. The bishops also asked for trees to be planted in ever y diocese in South Sudan.
The difficult road ahead is revealed in South Sudan’s other statistics. A third of children do not see their fifth birthday, half the population lives in extreme poverty, only a third of people are literate.
In the run up to the January 2011 elections which gave the country its independence, Caritas worked in partnership with the local Catholic Church to provide 100000 people with water, food, shelter, health and education. I t continued with radio broadcasts and practical courses to help people gain the skills for jobs, not fighting.
Sadly, separate conflicts in the Nuba Mountains and Abyei spiralled into serious humanitarian emergencies. Clashes between Sudan and South Sudan and with rebel fighters have forced people from their homes, leaving them with only the clothes they stand up in.
Caritas has warned that the situation is perilous and has joined calls for peace and justice. Secretary General Michel Roy, who represented the Caritas confederation at the independence celebrations, said: “It’s time for unity, for all Christians to give inspiration to their leaders, to that they will go the right way, away from conflict.”