Jill Rauh, outreach coordinator for the Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development (JPHD,) was part of a Catholic Relief Services delegation to Juba, Sudan, for the Sudanese Catholic bishops’ launch of the 101 Days of Prayer for a Peaceful Referendum in Sudan. She recounts some of her experiences below.
Last week, all over Sudan, the Catholic Church celebrated the launch of 101 Days of Prayer for a Peaceful Referendum in Sudan. Parades, masses and interfaith prayer services in dioceses across the country were attended by thousands of people. With a delegation from Catholic Relief Services, I was blessed to witness the lively and hopeful celebrations in Juba, the capital of Southern Sudan.
But what left the most lasting impression were the stories of the people with whom I spoke—stories filled with longing for peace after decades of civil war.
Hannah, a young woman working her way through college, shared about her father’s death at the hands of rebels in a rural area of Sudan.
Willy, a father with young children, described the pain of being separated from his family, who are across the border in Uganda. He fears a return to war and will not bring them home to Sudan until he is certain of peace.
Priscilla described her life growing up in a refugee camp after her family fled from violence. The camp provided safety, but Priscilla mourns the loss of years of social development, especially lost educational opportunities.
Taban expressed the sentiments of so many Sudanese: “If you ask me what peace is, I cannot answer. I do not know what peace is like. But I long to know it.”
The Church in Southern Sudan has been one of the only stable institutions during decades of civil war in Sudan, and the Catholic bishops there are leading the efforts for peace. Many fear that war will return if the January 9, 2011 referendum on independence for southern Sudan goes badly.
The USCCB has urged our government to help Sudan find peace. In partnership with Catholic Relief Services, USCCB has pledged to support the Church’s efforts for peace in Sudan. Catholics in the U.S. are invited to Pray, Learn, Advocate, and Give in solidarity with their brothers and sisters in Sudan. College students are being trained to serve as ambassadors to educate and involve fellow students on campus in efforts for peace. All Catholics can send a message to the President urging him to do everything he can to guarantee a peaceful and stable Sudan.