|South Sudan is the youngest country in the world and lives in a state of continuous conflict rooted in decades of history. The continuing guerrilla warfare and the climate-fuelled crisis are increasing social tensions, the displacement emergency and the state of poverty of the population.
The Combonian missionaries
The Combonians are a missionary institute founded by Saint Daniel Comboni whose primary aim is the evangelisation of the poorest and most marginalised human groups. There are currently about forty Combonians in South Sudan, divided into nine communities and mission places, and together with other religious institutes and the local church, they promote a process of conversion, reconciliation and peace. Evangelisation is considered an integral care of the person because, in the encounter with the Lord, people become capable of building a more fraternal society.
Interris.it interviewed Father Christian Carlassare, Combonian missionary bishop of Rumbek, who since 2005 has been in South Sudan, a land to which he now feels he belongs. Every day with his actions he tries to bear witness to the faith and encourage transformative processes of reconciliation, communion and peace.
Father Christian, who are the people of South Sudan?
“They are ambitious and proud people because of all the human wealth there is, but at the same time they are a people humiliated by all the history they have had to endure, starting with slavery and colonialism and ending with the succession of conflicts and the indiscriminate exploitation of resources. Their hearts yearn for peace and a dignified life, but there is no generation in South Sudan that has not experienced fear, violence and hunger. The common experience is that of a continuous state of insecurity, alternating with brief moments of tranquillity. This condition has deeply marked the psychology of the people who define themselves as a traumatised people’.
How do the South Sudanese react to the conflict?
“When you are born and live in such a context, you adapt in order to survive. At a certain point you even come to believe that peace is an unattainable dream and so you are content to be alive, trying to satisfy the immediate without any big plans for the future. Everyone wants peace, security, and economic recovery, but awareness is needed that does not come from a simple political agreement, but must start with the people themselves. The people must be able to stem all violence and stop the many weapons that are present in the territory in the hands of the different communities’.
Who are the first victims of this state of continuous guerrilla warfare?
“South Sudan has shown how much a military conflict can target civilians whose only crime is to belong to the enemy ethnic group. The conflict is causing looting, destruction, an exodus of displaced people, the decline of the economy, poverty, and in some areas of the country, a total lack of services such as schools and hospitals. Never as in South Sudan have the words written by Pope Francis in ‘Brothers All’ been so apt: ‘Every war leaves the world worse than it found it. War is a failure of politics, and a failure of humanity, a shameful surrender, a defeat before the forces of evil'”.
Pope Francis has repeatedly shown his closeness. Can this population feel it?
“All South Sudanese without division of creed see in the figure of Pope Francis a father and a bond of unity and peace. In April 2019, the Holy Father summoned the leaders of the country to the Vatican for a spiritual retreat. To each of them he handed a Bible on which was placed a phrase borrowed from Pope John XXIII: ‘Seek what unites and overcome what divides’. At the end of that retreat, the Pope bowed and kissed the feet of each of them as a demonstration that only humility and service can help overcome division. The underlying message was very strong and translates as: ‘Now you also do the same’. The people felt him close and his visit to the country was the crowning achievement of this commitment to peace’.
Credits to INTERRIS.IT
21 August 2023
Alice, Office Manager
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