Wednesday, July 13, 2011

South Sudan: Darfur, a New Country, and Hope

Given what's been happening in northeastern Africa, I'd better start with a sort of backgrounder. Not about Africa: about the Catholic Church.
  • Is it okay for Catholics to care about social justice?
    • Yes (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1928-1942)
  • Does the Church think religious freedom is important?
  • Is refusing to help in a genocide okay?
    • Yes (Catechism, 2313)
  • Is helping the poor a good idea?
Now, about Africa: last month, Sudan was one country: run by 'civilized' folks who lived in the north; with folks who were ethnically and religiously different from the rulers, mostly in the south.

'The Natives are Dying' - This Time Someone Acted

Not too many years back, folks in southern Sudan, particularly Darfur, were dying in wholesale quantities. Partly because they couldn't get food. Eventually, folks outside Sudan noticed that the 'natives' were dying, and took a hard look at what the 'civilized' folks were really up to. (Another War-on-Terror Blog July 14, 2008)

I think the 'civilized' folks trying to protect their children from a blasphemous - I am not making this up - teddy bear1 had something to do with this change in attitude.

Then there was the time that the 'civilized' rulers' rounded up 13 women: and charged them with wearing trousers. (Another War-on-Terror Blog (September 7, 2009)) The teddy bear and trousers situations aren't anywhere near as lethal as what was being done to folks down south in Sudan - but I think they illustrate what sort of attitude the country's 'civilized' rulers had.

The Religious Angle

I think one reason it took so long for folks outside Africa to notice how bad things were in Sudan is that just over half of the folks living there were Africans - "black," as we say. They weren't, for the most part, wealthy - and weren't part of the 39% of Sudan's population who were ethnically Arab.

About 70% of the total population in Sudan were Muslims - the 5% who were Christians lived mostly in Khartoum, or in the south. (Another War-on-Terror Blog April 23, 2008))

The blacks down south, including quite a few of Sudan's Christians, 'just happened' to be finding it very difficult to get food.

That's where the charges of genocide came in.

Does this 'prove' that Islam is icky, and all the usual 'towelhead' diatribe?

Hardly. I've corresponded with Muslims who were quite willing to live in a world where not everybody believed and lived exactly the way they did.

I think that the Muslim crazies we read about in the news may be about as representative of their faith as the Ku Klux Klan is of Christianity.

I've discussed living in a big world before:

South Sudan Celebrates Independence: Now the Work Begins

Excerpts from recent news:
"African clergy advise quick action on South Sudan's challenges"
Katherine Veik, CNA (Catholic News Agency) (July 11, 2011)

"African clergy say the Republic of South Sudan, which gained independence on July 9, must take steps to resolve an increasingly violent conflict in the troubled border region of South Kordofan.

" 'If the Government of South Sudan does not sit down to address the issues raised by the militia groups, it could become a nightmare with no stability for the South,' said Bishop Daniel Adwok of Khartoum in a recent interview with the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need...."
"South Sudan's flag raised at independence ceremony"
Will Ross, BBC News Africa (July 9, 2011))

"Tens of thousands of South Sudanese have watched the raising of the new country's flag at an independence ceremony in the capital, Juba.

"Salva Kiir signed the constitution and took his oath of office in front of the jubilant crowds, becoming president of the world's newest nation.

"Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir and UN chief Ban Ki-moon were among dignitaries watching the events.

"Sudan earlier became the first state to officially recognise its new neighbour.

"The world's newest nation was born at midnight local South Sudanese time (2100 GMT), the climax of a process made possible by the 2005 peace deal that ended a long civil war.

"The south's independence follows decades of conflict with the north in which some 1.5 million people died...."
Looks like Sudan's president Bashir beat that genocide rap. (Another War-on-Terror Blog (April 26, 2010, July 14, 2008) Maybe that's 'not fair.' I don't know. I think that it's a good idea for all of us to deal with what we've done here and now, rather than get sorted out later - and that's another topic. (August 8, 2010)

Back to Africa's newest nation:
"Catholics working for peaceful birth of South Sudan"
Katherine Veik, CNA (Catholic News Agency) (July 8, 2011)

"Local and international Catholic organizations are working to ensure a peaceful transition to independence for South Sudan on July 9, after two decades or struggle that killed or displaced over six million people.

"South Sudan's people will be 'free to build a society the way they want to according to their own vision,' said Bishop John H. Ricard, a representative for the U.S. bishops' Committee on International Justice and Peace, speaking to CNA from the southern capital Juba on July 8...."
I'm with the American Bishop, and Bishop Daniel Adwok of Khartoum: my hope and prayer is that folks in South Sudan build their country "according to their own vision." And have the good sense to "sit down to address the issues raised by the militia groups."

South Sudan has a lot of work to do. It won't be easy: but I think it can be worth the effort.

Related posts:
In the news:
Background:
  • "South Sudan"
    CIA World Factbook (page last updated July 11, 2011)

2 comments:

Brigid said...

Missing an article: "I think that Muslim crazies we read about"

The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

Brian Gill said...

Brigid,

It *does* read better this way. Thanks!

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