Friday, July 22, 2011

Weary for a Reason

When I am in Sudan there are some days when I honestly wonder, “Why am I doing this? Why am I traipsing along these dusty paths, squinting into the equatorial sun, swatting mosquitoes and dodging scorpions?  Why am I eating ugali (gruel made from ground maize) at every meal? Dousing myself in cold bucket showers? Traveling in dilapidated public buses and on the backs of motorcycles over miserable roads?  Why?”  

And then I visit the modest mud huts of the women with whom Mercy Beyond Borders partners. I see the incredible resilience of the women, their determination to rebuild after years of loss and war.  I see the small businesses they have launched with MBB micro-loans.  I listen to their stories. I hear the pride in their voices as they say, “Imagine! I am now a successful business woman netting $3 profit every day!” 

So I have my answer: this is why I go to Sudan. This is why Mercy Beyond Borders links with displaced women and girls.  We see their lives improve. We share their joy.  It is more than enough.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Almost Urban

Juba, capital of the now-independent Republic of South Sudan, squats on the banks of the Nile River. For the moment, it is a blend of hectic urban activity--nonstop construction, busy government offices, street vendors hawking their wares--and deep-seated, slow-moving rural roots.  Here we see cattle plodding down one of Juba's main streets. Soon such scenes will give way to traffic jams and neon signs, but for now one has the impression that Juba is much more country than city. Most roads remain unpaved; most streets have no signs. Public transport is via motorcycle only. There are no public libraries or parks, no museums or "destinations."  All of that will change, of course, in the coming years.  For now, it's a snapshot of Sudan's uncertain emergence into the world after so many years of isolation due to war.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Eyewitness Account of South Sudan's Independence Day

This email from Sr Maureen Limer, describes the excitement in Rumbek, S. Sudan, on July 9th.  The photo was taken of celebrations in Narus, S.Sudan, by Bro Mike Foley:

Sudanese Youth Jump for Joy on Independence Day
A dramatic birth! On the stroke of midnight, some of us on our beds beginning to sleep, Independence ERUPTED!

Drums and whistles, trumpets (buvuzelas), any available noisemakers but, above all, GUNS: AK 47s, rifles, revolvers, I'm no expert but they were ALL there adding to the cacophony and quite impressive after a two year disarmament campaign! Women shrieked with joy, their traditional ululating, children cried and EVERYONE knew the moment had come and the noise did not subside for hours and hours. It was frightening and exciting and REAL.

Just a few hours later, on the way to Mass, you could read it in the eyes of the mamas and children, their fathers, sons and brothers. The liturgical 'Sign of Peace' was so special this morning. I appreciated a special hug from a mama who shared a hollow in the Rumbek ground with me in 2003 during Bashir's last bombing raid on the town.

We spare a thought for Abyei, South Kordofan and Darfur where the attacks continue as we celebrate. It is understandable that Bashir has excused himself from the Juba eremonies today. Last night, concluding the nine days of prayer for the new nation, we gathered with the Bishop and parishioners for a candlelight vigil at the scene of the killing forty six years ago  of Rumbek priest, Fr. Archangelo Ali. We concluded with the first public singing of  the new anthem, "O God, we praise and glorify you for your grace on South Sudan, land of great abundance; uphold us united in peace and harmony." 

It is only 9.15 a.m. as I write but the marching and processions have been in full swing since daybreak and look set for the day. In fact, judging by the numbers, people have walked from far and wide through the night to take part. It is very evident that the teachers marshalling the thousands of schoolchildren are well-practiced in the art… I am typing to the rhythm of "Left, left, left....."  And in Freedom Square, scene of 1997 successful rout of the northern soldiers by the SPLA, everyone will want their turn on the podium; a day for remembering and savoring and full of expectation. There'll be some sore heads and
feet tomorrow but I'm sure there won't be many complaints.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Anticipating PEACE, girding for WAR

July 9th is INDEPENDENCE DAY for the new Republic of South Sudan!  Across the land, there will be drums accompanying the singing of their new national anthem, many long speeches, days of dancing and festive meals.  The people of S. Sudan are surely ready for REJOICING!

Behind the celebrations, however, lurks the awful threat of a return to war.  Omar al-Bashir (President of the North, who is under international indictment for war crimes in Darfur), last week reversed his June agreement to a cessation of hostilities. His army has already invaded the internal border regions, allegedly bombing villages, executing civilians, and claiming the land. This Northern aggression has caused over 160,000 Southerners to flee from their villages since mid-May.

Why not hold a birthday party wherever you are today and light a candle for PEACE in all of Sudan?

Friday, July 1, 2011

"Sometimes I can even afford fruit!"

While in the Sudanese town of Nimule during June, I visited and talked with the women who had received micro-loans from Mercy Beyond Borders.  Here is Vicky's story. She is living with AIDS:

I sell these tiny fish in the market stall. Before getting my loan from Mercy Beyond Borders, I sold only cooking oil. It was hard. Purchase at 65,000 Uganda Shillings (about $26) and sell, if lucky, at 90,000 Uganda Shillings (about $36). This was barely enough for normal living expenses. I never had any savings. Since the MBB loan I have been able to buy fish, groundnuts (peanuts) and beans. As you see here, these sell quickly.  My life has come up! My profit has tripled!  My day-to-day life is improving, truly. There is still more for me to do, of course, but already my diet has improved and my strength is good. Sometimes I can even afford fruit!  I have completely repaid the original loan with interest (12%).  I feel so good about that. If I had a chance for a second loan, I would build my own tukul (hut) and buy more provisions in Gulu and sell them in Juba.  As for the people in America who made the loan to me, I say to you: “I cannot express my joy. You have pulled me out of darkness. Now I live in the light.  I can never speak my thanks enough to you.”