There is no doubt that all of us have heard at least some news about the difficulties in Sudan. Our sisters are in Juba and have been sending us information about the situation so that we be in solidarity with them and continue praying.
A short history
In response to the invitation of the Bishops of Sudan, the Daughters of St. Paul opened a community in Juba in 2008. We repaired an old, abandoned prefabricated house to use as a residence and also renovated a second building to use as our Book and Media Center. Our presence in South Sudan is appreciated by the Catholic Church, by Christians of other faiths and by the people in general.
In spite of the fact that the Church and people value the Pauline mission, it is hard for the sisters to use the instruments of communication to promote human and Christian values due to the great poverty of the area and the lack of infrastructure such as roads and communications technologies. Nevertheless, there are many signs of hope, one of which is the possibility to help improve the lives of the children who attend the local elementary schools.
During the school year, the Center is flooded with children, who come in to buy pamphlets or—for those who have no money—to simply sit on the floor and read some of the books taken from the shelves. Very few of these children can afford to buy a book, even one that costs just a few cents. Because of this, they use our book center as a library. The sisters rejoice to see their desire to learn, but at the same time they suffer because they cannot provide them with reading material.
Excerpts from letters of our sisters in Juba:
December 17th, 2013
Peace from Juba. Once again we wanted you know the situation as it is. We are fine so far, although there is heavy and intense shooting with heavy machinery especially today during the day. This is along tribal lines where the Dinkas seek out the Nuers and the Nuers seek out the Dinkas.
So far many people have managed to go to the United Nations compound. It has escalated above 13,000 people. The UN is trying its best to settle them down with some assistance. A UN official said this evening that the two tribes even came to the UN compound to seek out their enemies and deal with them, but they were denied entrance.
The whole day Juba was a city in smoke near the Comboni Fathers and Sisters compound. The population is tense. It is really a pathetic situation, but we thank the Lord, because they have announced that soon they will open the airport, let us hope so.
Today we had continuous adoration of the Eucharist for the intention of peace and we hope you continue to pray for us.
December 21, 2013:
We visited the Kenyan commissioner today, to register ourselves and keep in touch. In the afternoon, we called the United Nations official. We asked her to secure a place for us in their compound just in case. She responded by laughing and informed us that 20 babies have been born in the UN compound. So, you see, there is new life. In the evening, the community shared some lighter moments together, dancing, laughing and sharing jokes in order to lighten our stress. We deeply acknowledge and appreciate your kind accompaniment of this community with prayers, encouragements and wishes for the coming festive season of the Lord's birth.
December 25, 2013:
Christmas greetings to each one of you from Juba.
We are celebrating our Christmas, but in a different style than normal. There is not really anything to celebrate. However, the Spirit is with us.
Yesterday was calm and we attended a meeting for all diocesan priests and religious men and women working within Juba archdiocese.
The parishes help shelter people in the thousands and help them enter the UN premises for security.
From the religious communities there was a good response in solidarity with those seeking help. The Sacred Heart sisters offered their clinic for over 5000 people to be treated and sheltered; the Salesians offered their community and school to hide the people, and so forth. After listening to all these experiences, the bishop told us, “WE NEED TO REMEMBER THAT WE ARE MISSIONARIES, AND THIS IS THE TIME THAT PEOPLE NEED US MOST. WE NEED TO BE HERE FOR THE PEOPLE AND HELP THEM GET THRUGH THIS CRISIS TOGETHER! DO NOT RUN AWAY. IT IS A CRISIS THAT WILL COME TO AN END SOON.
We finished the session and went home. After, we joined together with the ‘Solidarity for South Sudan’ community and had Mass then we went to bed.
This morning we walked to the UN camp where over 30,000 people are being sheltered. We attended a very lively liturgy with the Nuer community and it was danced through and through.
People have faith, my sisters! Even in their situation, they still pray and see God present in their lives. We also went to visit the wounded in the UN hospital. This morning the 31st child was born in the UN refuge camp.
We continue to pray that Christ our Peace dwell in all hearts and speak peace to the people.
Wishing you the grace of peace and joy in whatever circumstance you find yourself. Emmanuel is there. He is God with us.