Pressing Issues Cut Short South Sudan Celebrations

Church Leaders Giving Thanks for Peaceful Independence Day

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ROME, JULY 12, 2011 ( There is little time for celebration in South Sudan.

Though it officially became Africa’s 54th nation last Saturday, thus culminating a peace process that concluded the 1983-2005 civil war, many and serious issues need to be addressed quickly.

Bishop Eduardo Hiiboro Kussala of Tambura-Yambio, South Sudan, called July 9 a “wonderful day in the history of our people,” reported Aid to the Church in Need. “The celebrations here went wonderfully well. It was really a blessing of God that we had no violence.”

However, the bishop also pointed to threats of drought, which will be compounded by displaced southerns now returning.

“The challenge is immense,” he wrote in a pastoral letter released Saturday. “Sometimes, it will come down to a decision: What must I give us that this person might eat, be clothed, be sheltered, etcetera?”

Northern neighbors

Auxiliary Bishop Daniel Adwok of Khartoum spoke with Aid to the Church in Need about the disputed border regions.

“I do not think the South will stand idle if it sees its former allies experiencing fatalities and other forms of suffering,” he said.

The prelate also mentioned seven or more militia groups linked to conflict in the new nation.

“These are big issues,” Bishop Adwok said. “If the government of South Sudan does not sit down to address the issues raised by the militia groups, it could become a nightmare with no stability for the South.”

Meanwhile, the government of the north is undecided about a more vigorous enforcement of Shariah law, the Khartoum bishop said.

“Many see South Sudan becoming independent as a kind of liberation, meaning that Khartoum is now able to do what it wants and can pursue its own agenda without having to take into account the very different needs of the south,” he opined.


Cardinal Gabriel Zubeir Wako, archbishop of Khartoum, spoke of the independence as a “new future of reconciliation, solidarity and forgiveness.”

He told Vatican Radio that dioceses will celebrate, “in thanksgiving to God and the acknowledgement of the good that those who have worked for peace have achieved in the country.”

The cardinal remembered how the Church has played a key role along the road to peace: “It did a lot to convince people that no solution would be found by violence and conflicts. That the best path was dialogue and cooperation, so we talked to the government and on many occasions we had to tell the government that the policies that were being pursued would not achieve peace. And then the Southern people, those that were fighting, we told them they had to develop policies for peace, not simply a war for peace. They had to propose ways in which peace could be achieved without killing people or destroying things.

“Even the ways they were organized was all based on military strength, there were no people capable of dialogue, able to speak and discuss issues on their behalf and those that had these qualities were not considered. So we focused on supporting these people. Then among ordinary people we focused strongly on the need to pray for peace, to do penance for peace. …

“Then of course the problems for ordinary people, hunger, the lack of access to food because of the insecurity in transportation, the problem of educating children. We opened a lot of schools during the war, which at least occupied a large part of the young people, rather than their taking up arms. Our aim of developing women, convincing the women that they could play a very active role in bringing about peace. We recruited women in order to talk and convince people in the villages of the need for peace. And we also encouraged literacy among women, we challenged them to do something constructive, the mothers and sisters to help their men develop and become the building blocks of the future society in Sudan.”

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