|In the Broadway musical “Man of La Mancha” there is a song “The Impossible Dream or The Quest”. It speaks of a hope for a new time to come filled with hope and peace that all people come together as one to build a better future.
It is my favorite song and as we celebrate the twelve year of South Sudanese independence as a nation since 2011, there is still hope for this dream of living in harmony and peace may become reality despite the recent conflicts and violence that have threatened this newest nation in Africa to break apart.
The continuing conflict in the country of Sudan have caused over 100,000 people to flee the fighting and come to South Sudan since April of this year. Most of these are South Sudanese returning back home since the civil war here of 2013. They have come back seeking refuge and hoping to begin again in their beloved homeland after so many away. They dream of a new time to come where they can live in peace despite impossible challenges facing them daily. The people here are resilient and believe that things will get better as they say in Arabic “Allah Kareem” that God is compassionate and merciful always with them in the daily struggles of life.
The events of June 9th in our UN camp may have dampened the hope of our people here in the UN camp in Malakal but they do not give up on achieving the seemingly impossible dream of peace. On the morning of that day, the youth of two of the ethnic groups on our camp (Shilluck and Nuer) began fighting each other with sticks and guns resulting in the death of 13 youth as well as wounding over 24 people. As a result of this fighting all of the Nuer ethnic group in our camp (7,000 people) fled to safety in Malakal town.
Many of the Nuer homes in the camp were burnt to the ground and the Nuer Presbyterian church was destroyed. Also, other humanitarian offices and homes were looted.
The people who remain in the camp (mostly Shilluck) are still living in fear with many living in the road or in a buffer zone that is protected by UN peacekeepers here.
When I go out to see how the people are doing they come to greet me especially the children with a Warm handshake and smile. Some of the children even begin singing songs that we sing in our Church on Sundays. They keep living with hope daily that one day things will get better and that the dream of peace will become reality throughout South Sudan.
As we gathered in our Church last Sunday to celebrate the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, we sang and prayed together with joy and hope for a new day to come as we remain united together as the Church which is the Body of Christ.
In the homily, I spoke to them that Christ lives in us and that today we are his body by concluding with the prayer of St. Teresa of Avila where she says:
“Christ has no body now but your Yours’, no hands, no feet on earth but Yours’. Yours’ are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Christ has no body now on earth but Yours’.”
Our people have suffered much over these past weeks but as we gathered that Sunday in the Church together the fire of new hope was rekindled in our hearts as our dream for peace is possible together in Christ with the miracle of a new day to come in our lives.
Speaking of miracles, one of our youth who was shot through the head during the fighting in our camp has survived and is miraculously recovering. He still cannot speak clearly to tell us his name but he is eating and healing from his wounds with the hope of being reunited with his family thanks to the help of our Doctors from India and the UN Indian hospital here at our UN camp.
The miracle and impossible dream of peace among the people here in South Sudan will become reality one day as expressed in the hope of a young girl named Rebecca who lives in the camp in Juba and addressed Pope Francis on his ecumenical pilgrimage here on February 5 by saying:
“We love you, Pope Francis. Thank you for coming to be with us. I am asking your blessing today for all the children of South Sudan and those in my camp in Juba that one day we can all live in peace.”
This young child expresses the hope that the impossible dream of peace may become possible as we celebrate Independence Day this year.
Fr. Mike Bassano, mm
05 July 2023
Fr. Mike Bassano
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