Solidarity with South Sudan Marks 10th Anniversary
by Sr. Carolyn Buhs, SNDdeN
In the first week of July 2018, we, members of Solidarity with South Sudan (Solidarity), gathered in the Good Shepherd Peace Center in Kit, across the Nile River from Juba. Our Assemblies are wonderful occasions to connect with the other Solidarity members who work in Wau, Riimenze and Juba, South Sudan. From 17 countries, we number 32 men and women from 19 Religious Congregations and also 3 lay volunteers.
Our July Assembly marked the Tenth Anniversary of Solidarity with South Sudan (2008 - 2018). Solidarity began with a plea for help from the Bishops of Sudan to the Religious Superiors of the world to rebuild Sudan, after the years of conflict since 1956. Men and women religious internationally realized that no one Congregation would be able to train health workers and teachers and to care for the pastoral needs of a Church, traumatized by years of conflict. In 2008, the first religious arrived to serve in Wau, Riimenze, Malakal and Juba. Sr. Margaret Scott, our Principal in Yambio Solidarity Teacher Training College, (STTC) was among those first Sisters arriving in Riimenze.
NEW PARADIGM OF COLLABORATION
The Major Superiors of Religious envisioned a new paradigm of religious life, in which men and women religious of various Congregations and countries would live together in four communities, sharing the Mission of Jesus in various ministries. They sent a Call to all Religious Congregations for personnel and donations. After being accepted by Solidarity, I arrived in Juba on October 31, 2011 to serve in Malakal Teacher Training College. My new adventure in this collaborative ministry began!
In Malakal, I lived with a community of about 8 women and men religious. Our Principal was an Indian Salesian Sister and our teaching staff consisted of a Nigerian Marist Brother, an Ethiopian De La Salle Brother, one Irish Patrician Brother and an Irish Faithful Companions of Jesus, a Canadian School Sister of Notre Dame, an Australian Sister of Charity and me. We trained young men and women in ethnic groups of Shilluk, Nuer and Dinka to be primary school teachers. Practical teaching was done in the neighboring primary schools.We worked in teams to produce teacher training books since the country had none. I worked on the Social Studies and Christian Religious Education teams. Since then, I have three times revised the Social Studies textbooks.
Danger in Malakal
In December 2013, fighting broke out in South Sudan. Our College in Malakal was looted and our Solidarity Community was displaced. I went to teach English in Wau in the Health Training Institute and to organize their library. By the end of 2014, I moved to teach and help in the library at Yambio Teacher Training College where I am living now with nine other men and women religious and a lay volunteer. We pray, work, eat and relax together. Our countries of origin are: New Zealand, India, Ireland, Nigeria, Ghana, Papua New Guinea and USA. We also have South Sudanese, Kenyans and Ugandans on the staff.
Teacher Training and Other Ministries
Solidarity in ministry evolved from the original idea of an STTC in Riimenze to an STTC in Yambio, a larger town with better transport. In Yambio, I enjoy most Teaching Practice when we visit the neighboring primary schools to supervise the teaching of our students, work in the library and offer encouragement to our students to read more! Riimenze has become a center for farm development, a nursery school, and relief help for Internally Displaced People.
In a population with a literacy rate of 24%, the need for trained teachers is great! Now our STTC is the only operating teacher training college in this war-torn country. For the past eight years, our educational collaboration in Solidarity has graduated about 25 certified teachers each year. Some of our graduates are now teaching in the nursery and primary schools in Riimenze. As our graduates increase, we are delighted to see several become headmasters in primary schools around the country. The unity among our students of so many different ethnic groups and the cooperation among the members of our Solidarity communities are signs of hope for a young nation that is struggling to live in justice and peace for all 64 ethnic groups in South Sudan.