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Why We Are Here

It is sad to see the present, unnecessary suffering of the people in South Sudan. Many are hungry, many are homeless and most are very poor – except in their spirit. Fortunately, the Churches, the UN and Aid agencies continue to assist the people. The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) released a report last week asserting South Sudan faces the worst hunger since independence, with 4.6 million people in crisis or emergency food insecurity, roughly 40% of the population. But the report also points out that the hunger situation would now be even worse if not for aid delivered by humanitarian NGOs: humanitarian aid has reduced the severity of South Sudan’s hunger crisis, pulling back 11 counties, the report states, from the brink of famine.

Delivering such aid is essential but it is not enough. It is important not just to focus on survival but on creating opportunity and building the capacity for the South Sudanese people to take their own nation forward. That is why Solidarity with South Sudan is here: to train health care and education professionals, to increase the quality of pastoral activities and to help the people establish self-sustainable agriculture.

It is important to continue to dream, to live with hope of a better world. Such optimism permeates our health training and teacher training Institutes and pastoral activities. The situation in this country is far from ideal but our presence here brings hope to the people. We encourage the students to espouse high ideals. The opportunities we offer generate enthusiasm. They are keen to learn new skills. This is simply a good place to be if you believe in trying to help others. This is a good place to be if you want to live with others who are motivated by an intrinsic belief in the dignity of all people and their right to enjoy a reasonable standard of living.

Our Solidarity pastoral team have not just been involved in conducting trauma healing workshops but in educating the local people to be healers themselves. Our agricultural programmes are assisting the people to learn better farming techniques, better methods of food processing and storage, not only of product but of seed for the next year’s planting. We have 28 religious from 19 different congregations and 16 different nationalities plus two lay volunteers working in South Sudan. The people of this country need to learn to live with one another peacefully, to be South Sudanese first and a member of their tribal group second. At present tribal identity is far more dominant.

We are here to help the next generation know there is a better way, that peace and prosperity are possible. As the years have passed our number of African members has grown significantly. Those members we have from South Sudan, Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana have a special gift to offer, the gift of hope that the African peoples can prosper, if only given a chance.  Many of us live in somewhat insular circumstances. Before I came here, I had no friends from African nations. Yet, we learn to appreciate the richness each culture brings and enjoy unity in diversity.

Our mixed communities, of lay and religious; of religious sisters, brothers and priests; of men and women;  of old and not so old; of European, African, and Asian ethnicity; all living together, work well. They are not perfect – our common human nature ensures that; but there is underlying good will and empathy that are necessary in all human relationships. We try to exercise tolerance and acceptance in diversity, something the tribes of South Sudan must come to understand. For the present, we are needed. Our aim, however, is to make ourselves redundant. That is the hope we cherish but it will take time. Better education is the key and that takes time to deliver. Temporary setbacks do not deter from us from our goal.

– Br Bill