October 08, 2007

Sisters of Mercy in Sudan

SUDAN is very much in the news in recent years - one of the few "blessings" of the Darfur crisis. What you see in Darfur now, however - the total abuse and disregard of its citizens by the Khartoum Government has been going on throughout the South for the whole of its "independent" history after the withdrawal of the British in the 1950's.

South Sudan is 'African Sudan' while Khartoum, and the North, is Arab. The South contains all the natural assets of river, vegetation and many minerals, including gold and OIL.. China is colluding with the Khartoum Government to extract the oil from the South after driving off the local population with bombing, helicopter gunships, slash & burn, abduction and every other diabolical method known to humankind (inhuman & unkind). The life of the recently canonised Saint Josephine Bakhita, abducted as a child from Darfur, is testament to the deep-rooted nature of the problem.

We have no Mercy Congregation in Sudan but two Mercy Sisters, Cathy Solano of Melbourne, Australia, and Maureeen Limer from Sunderland, English Federation, have been working in the Dioceses of El Obeid and Rumbek respectively and in Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya, since 1993.

At this moment, Cathy is moving on to a Sabbattical break while Maureen has just returned from hers. While meeting the Sisters in New York for the MGC UN Conference, Maureen realised that if Sudan's story goes untold, it must be on her shoulders. Keeping a diary and making regular reports is certainly not my forte, so it is in fear & trepidation that I make this commitment to keep Mercy World informed from now on!

Sufficient for today to say that both Cathy & I have been struggling in the field of EDUCATION as Education Coordinators of our dioceses. In many parts of Sudan, children learn under trees, sitting on stones, and it is largely to the credit of the Church and a few NGO's that some new or renovated pre-war buildings are currently in use. Staffing these schools presents a bigger problem: not only are there virtually no qualified teachers to be found but often the education of those willing to try is barely beyond Primary level.

UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon, visited Juba last week to push for progress on the Peace Accord signed between the South and Khartoum in 2005. When Khartoum isn't refusing to deal at all, the next step is to agree & do nothing; both methods have proved very effective in leaving problems unsolved!

During Eastertide last year, The Superiors General in Rome (USIG) sent a delegation to each diocese in S Sudan. The result was a proposal for Education to set up a Teacher Training College, a joint venture with volunteers from any Religious Congregation interested. Perhaps there are Mercies out there waiting to be asked?

Blessings on all who read this and remember us from time to time.

Messages to: Maureen Limer rsm, English Federation & S Sudan.

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