FCJ Sisters in Southern Sudan for the Referendum ...
Sunday, January 9th, 2011 — Referendum Day
The day long awaited by all Southern Sudanese has dawned – today begins the week long Referendum voting to determine their future. On New Year's Day there was great rejoicing more for the fact that 2011 had come – and that the real New Year will announce itself when the South secedes and becomes a free country. Its name? – not yet established - but its new National Anthem is already chosen and has played on radio for some weeks. We can only imagine how that will be sung after the announcement – a foregone conclusion – that we live in a new country. It truly is a wonderful time to be here. As we exited the English Mass this morning one of the priests was proudly showing his inked thumb – proof that he had already voted. We were saying we are voting with you in spirit.
Thousands upon thousands returned south from Khartoum during the past month or two – not all of them to happy situations. Malakal (where FCJ Sisters Betty and Margaret work) was a transit town; people were accommodated in the Stadium until they could be moved to their native areas where they would then receive their Returnee provisions. Some Counties were quite slow in arranging for their people to travel on so there was much hardship. Sr. Margaret went to the Stadium with a nurse from MSF Holland who was doing Calazar education with the aid of an interpreter, and saw first-hand the plight of many. Happily by now there are very few, if any, still awaiting relocation.
There has been a concerted effort to train thousands of police (a year's training) who are charged with the responsibility of ensuring security during this week so as to "maximize the vote". The world is certainly watching Sudan and the Sudanese know it and are grateful for it.There are hundreds of international observers in every State. One of those in our Upper Nile State is from Bucharest and came to dinner on Dec 26th and New Year. His children were at school in the Bucharest Catholic High School in which Sr. Mary Murphy fcJ taught and spent a week in Limerick on an exchange with Laurel Hill students - how small the world is! That week also our Syrian builder brought some beautiful white cabbage and cauliflower – delicious! Gammon was among the gifts we received so the cabbage cooked with that was a real treat. Never did we Irish women think we'd be so excited about cabbage (the staple of our youth) and at Christmas to boot!