Mission World - March/April 2022

Pandemics are not all curse

South Sudan is not an old country. It is a section carved out of the former Sudan to form the 55th nation on the African continent in 2011. The mostly Christian south of the former territory of Sudan is now a nation independent from the majority Muslim north. However, neither has remained free from difficulty.

The north, with its capital in Khartoum, is currently plagued with political strife, with masses of people in the streets demanding an end to military rule. Meanwhile, the south, with its capital in Juba, has struggled against its own brand of civil war, and with massive floods added to the challenge of the coronavirus, is facing extremely difficult times.

The hungry scavenge around flooded areas for the edible water lilies. In 31 of the 72 administrative areas, higher ground has become a crammed refuge of the displaced and what remains of their herds. Late rain has worsened chronic food shortages that three years of flooding and a decade of civil war have bequeathed.

Throughout the country, an estimated 2.5 million people are facing food shortages, with some 100,000 looking down the barrel of famine. Nevertheless, Bishop Barani Hiiboro Kussala sees hope on the horizon, ironically in the scourge of the coronavirus. “The pandemic has made us realise we are created in God’s image and likeness, and redeemed, because we rely deeply on each other as a human family,” he told the Agenzia Fides news agency.

He explained that people displaced from their homes outnumber those who can claim one. Incessant political shouting, floods and food shortages, have all contributed to the deprivation levels across the country dropping to a level below that of five years ago.

Dubbed locally as the peace-making bishop, Hiiboro is calling on the people to place their trust in the power of goodness and love, and to share that goodness throughout the whole year. He says such trust lies at the heart of South Sudan achieving political stability, as divisions have so far made it impossible for the population to speak with a sufficiently collective voice to even legitimise a constitution.

Bishop Hiiboro says so long as communities remain unreconciled and divisions among them run deep, there will be no progress. He is encouraging the prioritising of peace-building at a grassroots level around parishes and villages as the way of forming strong communities and carving out a pathway to counter the divisions. This, he believes, is achievable through acceptance of the salvation offered by Jesus Christ, as hope can only be based on the realisation that Jesus is risen.

He believes that ironically, the pandemic has been a type of blessing, as it has been the great leveller and reinforced the message that a prerequisite to survival is a spirit of respect within people for their own humanity and that of their neighbour. Simply staying alive has been so difficult that the bishop sees former differences predicated on political or tribal identity as tending to fade into the background.

It is difficult to think of a pandemic as a blessing, but circumstances that force us to change the way we live can have a positive spin off. A pandemic may not be all curse.

This article was written on behalf of St Columbans Mission Society.

The Far East Mission World globe

Mission Intention for March/April 2022

March - For a Christian response to bioethical challenges: We pray for Christians facing new bioethical challenges; may they continue to defend the dignity of all human life with prayer and action.

April - For health care workers: We pray for health care workers who serve the sick and the elderly, especially in the poorest countries; may they be adequately supported by governments and local communities.

We ask your prayers:

The prayers of our readers are requested for the repose of the souls of friends and benefactors of the Missionary Society of St Columban who died recently and for the spiritual and the temporal welfare of all our readers, their families and friends.

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