Letters from South Sudan

This week’s letter comes from Immaculate Heart of Mary Sr. Joan Mumaw, Solidarity with South Sudan’s development director. Though based in Maryland, Mumaw keeps in close contact with those working in South Sudan and offers a reflection on the recent peace agreement between the rebel forces and the government and the present situation team members are facing as they work to teach and offer healthcare.

I have been watching the program Cosmos and also reading in preparation for our summer gathering. The message that comes through is how we are all connected and relationships matter, relationships to our earth and its inhabitants and to the global community. This gives me heart as I think of all the prayers for peace and reconciliation in South Sudan. Has there been a tipping point in the spiritual atmosphere surrounding the leaders who gathered in Ethiopia on May 9 and signed an agreement which included honoring a cessation of hostilities agreement signed in January, opening up corridors for humanitarian aid to reach over one million internally displaced persons, and developing of a transitional government, the composition of which was left undecided? Pressure has also come from the international community which has supported this newest of countries since before independence in July 2011. A humanitarian crisis of great proportion looms as the rainy season begins. Foodstuffs need to be safely transported down the Nile and flown to areas unreachable by road.

We believe that what we do, including praying for our brothers and sisters around the globe, does have an impact. We join in praying that the leaders will honor their commitments and that peace and reconciliation will begin to emerge slowly from this time of trauma and violence. Issues that have been “brushed under the rug” in the movement toward independence need to be addressed up front. These include historical grievances, development of democratic structures that include civil society and local religious leaders, and a finalization of a constitution that reflects the will of the citizens. Relationships with Sudan (Khartoum government) also need a resolution so that the people in the border region have their basic civic and human rights honored and peace restored.

News from Solidarity staff indicates that, with the exception of the Malakal Teacher Training College which was looted and damaged early in the civil unrest, ministry continues with the students able to reach Wau and Yambio. The Director of the Catholic Health Training Center, Our Lady of the Missions Sr. Dorothy Dickson says it well:

“Life in Wau is (back to) normal with all roads open, schools, markets, hospitals, clinics, and airport open and functioning. Trucks are back bringing supplies from Uganda, Kenya and Sudan to the traders here in the market. The military presence which was very visible two weeks ago is now down to what we are used to having around. The UNMISS personnel who were confined to camp are back out in the community. There are about 707 mainly Nuer sheltering in the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS) camp but they are being encouraged to leave. Each diocese is involved in special relationship healing and prayer exercises in preparation for Pentecost.” 

[Colleen Dunne is an NCR Bertelsen intern in editorial and marketing and a primary contributor to Global Sisters Report.]