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Not So Happy Christmas in South Sudan

Photo Credits: Paul Jeffrey

Photo Credits: Paul Jeffrey

Christmas is coming and we all have various expectations for a ‘happy time’. The world over, including in South Sudan, atheists, agnostics and many adherents to other non-Christian faiths, as well as Christians, celebrate Christmas holidays, just as here we also celebrate all the Muslim feasts. One item of which we do have an oversupply in South Sudan is public holidays! The end of Ramadan, Eid al-Fitr, may last up to three days but often it seems to be celebrated for more like a week! Christmas in South Sudan, nonetheless, is still one of the most special times but many will celebrate with very little this year. Too many people here look very hungry and are very hungry. They are lucky if they enjoy one meal a day. They are living a year of fasting, not just a month as in Ramadan. I have learned a new cross-language gesture: putting fingers together and raising them to one’s mouth indicates hunger, ‘Please help me to get some food’. It is bad enough in the capital, Juba, but in country areas it is worse. One of the things that happen when lawlessness increases is that road travel becomes unsafe. Vehicles are stopped and all goods of value, including food, are stolen. The lucky ones are those who escape physical harm. So it is hard for traders to bring food in, markets and shops have little to sell, and the prices are inflated of what little there is for sale. Industrially, the people are powerless.For all of this, the Christmas liturgies will be over-crowded and celebrations will be buoyant. The people have learned to be grateful for what little they have, including the gift of life itself. South Sudanese know what it is like to be born in a stable, to endure suffering but to enjoy celebrating together.

– Br Bill