To nurture dreams of a better tomorrow

While peace may not be of particular worry to some people, given that the realities of their living environment do not seem to frustrate their desire for well-being, it must be stressed that it is a treasure that is hard to come by for many men and women, such as those in South Sudan, who have suffered disastrous fratricidal conflicts for decades. It is impossible to live in such an environment without asking the existential question of education for a culture of peace.

This overview of South Sudanese society shows that education and a culture of peace are imperative for human society in general, particularly for South Sudan, given that it is impossible to lead a fulfilling life without peace. Indeed, peace education is an urgent appeal to family and parental responsibility. In this case, searching for a healthy and fulfilling environment is not an option but a priority. To this end, all human values will be imprinted on the consciousness of children, who are said to be adults in miniature, within the family unit and from an early age, with a great sense of responsibility. So, children will grow up with the values inculcated in them: human, intellectual, professional, and spiritual. All the components of society must be considered in this essential undertaking of peace education.

It must also be understood that the well-being of any human society is founded and perpetuated by the good conduct of its daughters and sons, who depend on the education they have received. This education for peace must be cultivated to last in space and time. This also presupposes the creation and promotion of solid and humanising institutions. This need is even more urgent in countries disarticulated by armed conflict, such as South Sudan.

South Sudan

Although South Sudan is a young independent state, it has suffered profound social upheaval undermining its social and national unity since its birth. Having been marginalised for a long time in education, the key to growth and development, by the Sudanese authorities before its independence, it is sad to note that formal education is still a luxury for these people. This lack of formal education in a country traumatised by war is, in our opinion, a breeding ground for violence. It fosters ethnic narcissism and a spirit of revenge. Unfortunately, far from working to eradicate violence in all its forms, we are instead witnessing, helplessly, the amplification of conflicts.

As far as we are concerned, the Diocese of Malakal, in the administrative region of Jonglei, where our parish is located, is the epicentre of violence. Violence in churches related to succession, livestock theft, abduction and abuse of children, ethnic clashes, conflicts related to land appropriation, forced marriages, abuse of women, vulnerable people and foreigners. The lack of education seems to be one of the main reasons for this disturbing situation. To this end, our pastoral work has adopted education for a culture of peace as a priority objective.

We are therefore convinced that one of the best ways of breaking the chains of violence, promoting peace and working towards reconciliation is to establish a school for holistic education. However, we are doing things differently until we have the necessary resources to build the school. The focus of our pastoral approach is peace. For example, we make the most of the homily to speak to desperate hearts, encouraging fraternity and a positive change in the way we look at others, which cannot be an option but a priority if we want to make good use of the opportunities to calm hearts and heal the environment in which we live.

Collaborating with the diocese and some partners, we have also organised healing sessions for the traumas and other scourges undermining South Sudanese society. Our parishioners and neighbours also took part in them. We also organised sessions for young people. And finally, we organised a children’s day, which was a success despite the meagre resources available. Regarding the children in particular, we resolved to have a weekly programme with them, and between early December and now, we have noticed an increase in attendance. We wanted the children’s programme to be inclusive, aiming to promote peace. To this end, their parents have expressed their gratitude to us for our contribution to their children’s education, while at the same time asking us to build a school which, for them and us too, would be the ideal setting for realising such a dream.

There is a strong link between peace and sustainable development. Indeed, one cannot be a reality without the other. They are even the stumbling blocks to coexistence. From this point of view, the best attitude to adopt and inculcate is respect for human life and its promotion because, as we say, man is an end and not a means. It is in this context that we approach our pastoral activities. In fact, we have organised sessions to promote peace and justice and to equip families to be the basic cells of peace. As part of our efforts to promote peace, we organise traditional songs and dances for children and sports for young people. We want to have a school in the future where knowledge, manners and skills are transmitted to the young. We also express the need for a vocational training centre for young people to bring about a change of perspective. While idleness and the lack of opportunities to nurture dreams of a better tomorrow lead them to violence, we hope that vocational training could, on the contrary, turn them into actors for peace.

We are convinced that education remains a reliable means of paving the way for sustainable development and promoting peace and human life, as in Southern Sudan. On the strength of this conviction, we take this opportunity to ask anyone who is convinced of the need for education and the training of young people to support our mission in a country dislocated by the horrors of war and where the future of not only of the Church but of humanity as a whole, is being sorely questioned. 

By: Nare Mohamadi Jean Dieudonné, M.Afr.

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