22 maggio 2012

Education is key to development in South Sudan

In the latest development of the simmering conflict between the world’s newest nation, South Sudan, and its Northen neighbour Sudan, Juba is asking the United Nations to impose sanctions on Khartoum.
It says that Sudan is failing to obey a Security Council resolution calling for an end to hostilities and renewed negotiations with South Sudan over oil and border disputes.
Meanwhile the UN is warning that more than half the population of South Sudan are facing food shortages due to the continuing conflict with Sudan.
Fighting on the border between the two countries and the shutdown of oil production have had a devastating impact on the South's economy.
And analysts say there are fears the situation in the South, which gained independence from Sudan last July, is worsening. 
Linda Bordoni spoke to Father Joseph Callistus who is based in Juba, but was briefly in Rome to liaeise with colleagues of the Solidarity with South Sudan organization which has its headquarters near the Vatican.
Father Joseph, who is director of the Solidarity with South Sudan project explains that it is a consortion of more than 200 religious congregations involved in capacity-building in the new nation.

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Father Joseph explains that in 2005, when the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed, the Conference of Bishops in Sudan invited the Union of Major Religious Superiors, both men and women sections in Rome, to come and help uphold and rebuild the new opportunities in South Sudan. They responded by choosing four areas in which they could help: primary school teacher training; health training; pastoral work with ongoing formation for laity, religious, priests and church personal; agriculture.
Fr. Joseph describes the current situation of impending conflict as sending shock waves of insecurity throughout the nation. Whilst after the referendum in July, he says, the people had moved into a period of stability and this was showing with new infrastructures and businesses starting to flourish, the the current impasse with North Sudan is such that it has brought instability and insecurity with prices going up, few commodities, people storing goods and all sorts of things that come with an unstable political situation. What happens during times of instability, he says, a lot of rumours are spread so there is a need for assurances.
Fr. Callistus also voices his opinion that the international community has the responsibility to bring the two sides to the mediating table. Now he says, there is the opportunity to solve unresolved issues with the international community present, and he mentions the issues of oil revenue, border demarcation, the issue of South Sudanese who are living in the North. All issues that have not been resolved and are bringing uncertainty. He says the international community is dutybound to take up a role.
Fr. Joseph says the international community also has a responsibility as regards investment in South Sudan. He says that during the time of war, the resources of South Sudan were used to generate revenue for the the Republic of Sudan. Now is the time these resources must be used to help the new country build its infrastructure, but this can only happened when the above issues are resolved.
As regards internally displaced people he says that at the moment there are issues in many other regions of Sudan and South Sudan that are creating instability and the displacement of people. He mentions South Kordofan, Nuba Mountains, Blue Nile, Darfour, all areas in which people not only are displaced, but they are also attacked, raped, killed...
Fr. Joseph says the people need help. Education he says is key to their development. And even if many are living in temporary shelters, Soldidarity with South Sudan is convinced that education is fundamental for building the future.
He speaks of the work of Caritas that is distributing aid to the people who are affected, and expresses concern for the fact that the impending rainy season will create further emergencies, both in transporting aid and in health conditions in the camps.
Fr Joseph is convinced that the people of South Sudan has many resources including the commitment of the people to rebuild their new nation. Many who had left have returned with the new opportuntiy and he says South Sudan can rebuild its self as a prosperous new nation with the right accompaniment and help.
As regards the Bishops Conference of Sudan, fr Joseph says the Bishops of Sudan are remarkable spiritual leaders. It is because of their efforts that self-determination was possible.
South Sudan has 7 dioceses whereas the North has 2. After independence the bishops decided to keep the conference united, operating though separate diocese in both countries. 
He says the bishops of Sudan are busy implementing the post synodal document following the 2009 Synod of Bishops for Africa. In particular seeing to it that in all the dioceses follow through in their pastoral formation with a series of issues the document calls for such as pastoral reconciliation, justice and peace, inter-tribal living, accountability and transparency: all of them important issues that this document calls for. 
He says the government of South Sudan respects the Church and supports the work of Solidarity with South Sudan. It considers the Church "the mother of education." But he says the Church is also the prophetic voice in South Sudan and the governement is listening. At the moment he says, it is a good combination.
Fr Joseph is convinced that South Sudan can develop into a beacon for Africa, a nation based on respect for human rights, the search for common good, the upholding of justice.
Finally Fr Joseph remembers the prayer campaign called 101 days of prayer that helped create an opportunity for a new imagination for the people of South Sudan as they strived for independence. Today he says, there is a new opportunity to accompany this new nation with prayer. He speaks of the power of prayer and asks all to accompany South Sudan in prayer. 

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