Witnessing to Solidarity in turbulent times


We are pleased to start the New Year with the story of Christopher Soosai (FSC), Principle of the Solidarity Teacher Training College (STTC), which he released for La Salle Brothers‘s “Finite Fragile Free” issue.

“I was then working happily in a well-established Lasallian school in East Asia when the invitation to consider a missionary assignment to South Sudan was made. By no less than the Superior General himself! My immediate response was “yes”. I answered freely. It was a call within a call. I grabbed the golden opportunity because I like venturing into roads untraveled. From a comfort zone to a challenging place is a moment of grace. The initiative to bring together Church groups to collaborate on a project is not necessarily a well-traveled path. Initiated in 2008, Solidarity with South Sudan (SSS) is a pioneering ministry that brings together congregations with different charisms, religious communities with diocesan ministries, as well as international foundations with local organizations. The center is located in the beautiful town of Yambio in the Western Equatoria State, known for its mangoes, pineapples, and reputedly the best honey in the world.

While rich in natural resources, this newly independent country is currently listed at the bottom of every human development index.

In 2019 I joined the community consisting of religious sisters, brothers, and lay missionaries. The members came from seven distinct countries and seven different congregations. Aside from being inter-congregational and international, the community is also intentional because there is ample space to live and share each one’s unique cultural background and charism, and to learn about the other’s nationality, language, food, religion, sports, and praying styles.

Unlike strangers sharing the same space but who choose to remain unengaged with each other, we take turns cooking different dishes — Peruvian, Indian, Chinese, Polish, African, or Irish. We pray together, share home duties, and try to look out for each other. Appreciation and respect for diverse cultures are embedded not only in our intentional community but also promoted among our teachers and student-teachers. Community life requires great sacrifice as there are differences in personality and professional backgrounds. But when we focus on a common goal and shared mission, love, care, and support take precedence.

Since my arrival, I have become acutely aware of the poverty among people here and the critical role of education in the country’s development. Emerging from decades of war, its citizens have to learn to survive through the failing economy, political paralysis, threats to local and national security, and many natural disasters. In this environment, capacity- building for young people may be their only ray of hope for the future. Otherwise, they will likely end up with the ever-familiar stories of young men without jobs, pregnant teenage girls, school dropouts, forced marriages of young girls to much older men, unmarried mothers with increased vulnerabilities, or women in trauma from sexual violence and domestic abuse.

Every student who comes to our college has a heartbreaking story. Former child soldiers. Rape survivors. Children from dysfunctional families. Dependents of families forced to flee. Scarred people all.

Our mission is not just confined to academic excellence. We offer a holistic education that contributes to the healing of psychological wounds, and life skills training to develop their inborn talents in sports, music & arts, drama, handicrafts, etc. While we believe we seek to provide our students with the best educational service, we encounter many hurdles in the mission, even resistance, and criticism from those we care for deeply.

There seems to be a creeping culture of entitlement that has become a major threat to the sustainability of the project. Since its establishment fifteen years ago, everything has been offered gratis: full board, free textbooks, personal supplies, and plane tickets to and from their home village. Students expect foreign missionaries to have access to unlimited funding for their basic needs. Some easily turn hostile or even violent.

Recently, students, teachers, and workers went on strike for more than two weeks. I have received a warning that a group of students were planning to beat me and the religious sisters who called for an end to the strike. Despite the fragility of the ministry, we still haven’t given up. The threats and insults do not prevent me from joining the company of students on Fridays for their dancing activity. I am convinced they still can grow and be healed from their traumas and chart a new future for themselves. Every little accomplishment is a sign of hope for this fragile country fragmented by diverse languages and tribes.

When I meet a graduate who looks back with gratitude for the life-changing formation she has received at the college, my faith in our educational mission is strengthened. When I witness a young boy able to outgrow his tribal boundaries and ready to meet someone from a different language

or culture, my hope is renewed. When a former student comes back to share the story that the old lessons in school can actually contribute to a better life for the family and the local community, my spirits are uplifted. Then I begin to sense the movement from fragility to hope.”


Credits to: Brothers of the Christian Schools – La Salle – Finite Fragile Free – 25 December 2023



Date Published:

02 January 2024


Alice, Officer

Article Tags:

Latest news, South Sudan, Solidarity, Teacher training, Education, Hope, Mission

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