One year ago today, I was in Juba, South Sudan for the independence celebrations of the world’s newest country. It was a huge event, and I shall not soon forget it, even if my friend here was holding his flag in the wrong spot.
It’s been a hard first year for South Sudan. Not only are there serious unresolved issues in its relationship with what remains of Sudan, it has been beset by inter-tribal violence, plagued by corruption, and unable to address the many pressing social needs of its people.
But when people ask me, as they often do, what I think about South Sudan, my reply always includes the lines, “I have a lot of hope for the future.” And I do. My visits to Sudan have convinced me that the potential in that country is huge.
I am particularly convinced of this because of the continued and powerful witness of the church in Sudan for peace and reconciliation. When Jonglei state was plagued by inter-tribal violence earlier this year, the government turned to Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul of the Episcopal Church of Sudan. He negotiated a peace deal that has held and has created the space necessary for long-term peace-building to get underway. Archbishop Daniel and his Catholic counterpart Paulino Lukudu Loro have issued a statement on their continued hopes for the future of South Sudan.
So when you read the truly horrific news that the continued violence along the border is producing another “Lost Boys”-type situation or the awful conditions in some new refugee camps, I hope that a gasp of horror won’t be your only response. On this July 9—and every other day—I hope you’ll join in prayers for this new nation, read the letter from the archbishops, and think about ways in which you and your church can support our sisters and brothers in Christ in South Sudan.
Together, perhaps, the enthusiasm displayed by this young man can soon become a reality shared by all.