Solidarity with South Sudan ... Free at Last!
July 2011 and October 2011
Solidarity with South Sudan (SSS) (www.solidarityssudan.org/) is a consortium of more than 170 religious congregations, including ours ... Faithful Companions of Jesus. Two FCJ Sisters work in South Sudan, Sr. Elizabeth and Sr. Margaret. SSS trains teachers, nurses and pastoral personnel in several locations throughout South Sudan. This initiative was inspired by the 2004 Rome Congress on Consecrated Life, Passion for Christ, Passion for Humanity.
On 9th July 2011, the Republic of South Sudan came formally into existence. For the people of South Sudan it was FREE at LAST and an occasion of GIVING THANKS.
Br. William Firman, FSC (Australian, Director, Teacher Training College, Rimenzi) has written frequent letters (accompanied by many photographs) describing the experiences of the religious women and men who are carrying out the mission of Solidarity with South Sudan. You can access all his letters here.
In letter #74, Giving Thanks, Brother Bill writes:
The newest country on earth, South Sudan, is now formally in existence. The celebrations were joyful and orderly. No 'What ifs?' arose to spoil the occasion: no unforeseen incident occurred to mar the celebrations. Significantly, Sudan, our northern neighbour from whom the south seceded, became the first country formally to recognise South Sudan as an independent nation.
It is hard to capture the spirit and excitement of such an occasion. Perhaps the banner shown in one photo taken in Juba, 'Free at Last', with the men carrying replicas of parts of the statue of liberty, sums up what independence means to the South Sudanese people. Ninety-nine percent voted for independence and that has been delivered. Hopefully, the years of war are behind the people of this new nation, but there are many challenges ahead.
The Secretary General of the United nations, Ban Ki-moon, who was present in Juba for the independence celebrations summed up the reality in these words:
'Nationhood has come at steep cost: a staggering number of lives lost and people displaced in a 21-year civil war that ended only in 2005. When the assembled presidents and prime ministers board their official planes to return home, the challenges that remain will be daunting indeed. On the day of its birth, South Sudan will rank near the bottom of all recognized human development indices...
... At the same time, South Sudan has remarkable potential... Alone, South Sudan cannot meet these challenges nor realize its potential. Doing so will require partnership... Finally, South Sudan must reach out to its own people. It must find strength in diversity ...
The main celebrations were held in the capital, Juba. A strong military presence was obvious but the mood was exultant. Sister Margaret Sheehan, shown in the photo on the left, tells me that the celebratory mass of thanskgiving she attended the next day lasted for three hours ...
In the most recent Solidarity with South Sudan Newsletter (October 2011) , the focus is on the Teacher Training College in Malakal.
You can read the newsletter here or download it from the Solidarity with South Sudan website.
The Teacher Training College in Malakal is of particular interest to us because both Sr. Elizabeth and Sr. Margaret are missioned here.
The newsletter states: Lying close to North Sudan's border, Malakal's trade, health and educational systems are largely influenced by an Islamic culture and Arabic language. In contradistinction to this trend, the Comprehensive
Peace Agreement in 2005 mandated that English would be the official medium of instruction in all South Sudan schools. Unfortunately, there was little advanced preparation for this linguistic change and a large number of teachers do not speak English...
... This lack of human capacity in the educational sector is one of the principal reasons Solidarity with South Sudan established a Teacher Training College in Malakal: to instruct teachers in English and to provide them with professional pedagogical training. It's challenging work, but an important job because, through their students, teachers will have enormous influence in shaping the new country of South Sudan.
In the latest of Fr. Bill's letters, #84 Companions on the Journey, he describes the coming to birth of Solidarity with South Sudan (SSS) when the Bishops Conference of South Sudan appealed to the leaders of religious insitutes for help. The Union of male Superiors General (USG) and its female counterpart, the UISG, together, responded by taking the courageous decision of creating a new model of mission for religious life. Different Religious Congregations would commit financial aid and/or personnel in order to provide teacher education, health training and support programs to assist the South Sudanese people in their quest for peace, unity and reconciliation. The project was given the name of Solidarity with South Sudan (SSS). There is a clear stress on the preposition "with", underlying the commitment of its members to accompany the people of South Sudan, empowering and supporting them as they rebuild their lives, their communities, and their societal structures. You can access all his letters here.
Another FCJ, Sr. Katherine Mary O'Flynn, general superior assists in the mission of SSS by serving as a Board chairperson.
Fr. Bill's letter continues: The Sudan Catholic Bishops have been meeting, during the past ten days, at the Catholic Health Training Institute in Wau. This facility, belonging to the Bishops, has been redeveloped by SSS and is administered and staffed by SSS, a special gift for the benefit of all the people of South Sudan. Sr Katherine O'Flynn FCJ, Board chairperson of SSS, along with Sr Pat Murray IBVM, the Executive Director of SSS, travelled from Rome and attended part of the Bishops' meeting while Fr Callistus Joseph CMF our SSS Director of Projects and Fr Manny Ginete CM, a new member of our pastoral team, were also present for most of the meeting. Nurse training has continued during this time.