|The Holy Father, Pope Francis, is coming to South Sudan, but not this July, 2022. Their postponing of this blest trip of Christendom, in the persons of Pope Francis, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, Rt. Rev. Dr. Iain Greenshields, is, perhaps an added blessing and an opportunity for deepening and reckoning with, what this historic journey means.
When speaking with everyday persons in South Sudan on the street, in Konya-Konya, the large outdoor market in Juba, in the semi-rural Village of Kit, flying to Wau or Yambio and talking with students at the Teacher Training Institute or Health Trainees in class and supervision, they all say: “…the Holy Father is coming to dry our tears!”. Years of tears have been shed and lost in this fragmented, struggling Country, arising from the ashes of decades of war and staggering to get on its feet, assume its identity and grow into a Nation.
Our Christian leaders, repeating Jesus’ words: “I pray that all may be one (Jn 17,21)”, breathe out “hope”, in the strength of the Holy Spirit, to a people who have become desperate, losing more than 400,000 in the war and even now, more, in the continued killings, rapings, kidnappings and conflicts that ravage families and the land.
“I pray that all may be one”, in “reconciliation”, which presupposes “forgiveness” — a having been “given to”, and thus being able to take from the store within and “hand it on”, reconcile, bring together!
We are one People, one Nation, from the time of joy and celebration of the hard won independence. The thread of “unity”, though fragile, is still alive and a possibility for progress, order and growth, developing an upward and outward mindset and approach to resolving differences and binding wounds.
Peace building is a process that is gradual and must be consistent and integrative at all levels. It calls for “endurance” and the People of South Sudan are heralds of endurance in the most trying of times. They don’t give up the fight! But what kind of “fight” is worth continuing? Is building the “peace” and the Nation in reconciliation, justice and forgiveness, a unified, desired possibility now? Our Church Leaders come with this intention. They carry a “love”, which they’ve received from Christ, and so desire to enkindle it in our hearts and lives: “…that all may be one”.
Let us use this interim time of waiting and preparing for their visit to our Country as the opportunity it is meant to be — making us more responsible, taking initiative and positive steps in peace, reconciliation and unity. Then, the meaning of this coming “Historic Journey” of our Brothers and Leaders in our Christian Faith will not have been in vain, and well beyond their “drying of all our tears”. Let us, like them, make the journey of hope, peace, reconciliation, forgiveness, love and unity be made flesh in our midst, for our future and our children’s children’s future!
29 June 2022
Sr. Terezinha Esperança Merandi, MSC, Good Shepherd Peace Center
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