We Can't Get Tired of Caring: Brokenness and Hope in South Sudan
Last week the world's youngest nation turned six.
Independence day in South Sudan passed without much of a celebration anywhere, including inside of South Sudan. Festivities were canceled by the South Sudanese government. Could have been in order to keep peace. More likely was because the government is broke.
And broken. Like most of the juvenile nation.
NPR (along with several other news outlets) did a few stories about South Sudan last week, in what at least proved to be a hat-tip to the nation's birthday. But I fear the journalistic community may be slack in their coverage of South Sudan and her current crisis for the simple reason that their audience is more of less tired of it.
South Sudan has been in the news for a long time.
For reasons I'm still trying to get my head around, the US has put South Sudan high on its foreign policy priorities - dating back to the Clinton era.
Now, we're apparently tired of hearing about it. Tired of talking about it. Tired of supporting it. Tired of giving toward something which apprears to be a international version of "The Money Pit." South Sudan is old news before she turns six.
Of course, let's be honest. There's not a lot to celebrate. There is much to mourn. Out of 11 Million South Sudanese - 6 million are in danger of starving to death - right now, as I write this. The troubling thing about this particular famine is the fact that it's almost entirely manmade. Civil conflict has been an ongoing reality in South Sudan since 2013 - and in the region for decades. This has resulted in over 2 million South Sudanese people seeking refuge in other countries and millions more facing facing displacement. 55% of refugees in the world come from three countries. South Sudan is one of them, currently host to the world's fastest growing displacement crisis.
Of course, South Sudan's woes are not entirely of human origin. At least arguably. This year farmers are facing more natural dangers to their already vulnerable crops, which will only deepen the looming cloud of hunger on the torn and broken nation. Climate change. We have to own at least a part of that, as well.
I've been personally following the disaster that is South Sudan for some time because of my day-Job (I work with a church-based international relief and development organization). South Sudan is landing on the blog for two reasons.
- More people need to know what is happening there. This is an ongoing, under-reported humanitarian disaster.
- I believe the seeds to the answers for a highly complex, complicated issue are seeds already sown throughout South Sudan.
Already sown. Like a grain of wheat that is buried under the ground and has died.
There's a lot about the modern Church which currently makes me sad. And sometimes angry. Particularly in the Church-world which falls under the categorization of "Evangelicalism" - a label I'd personally like to abandon all together.
That said, I still deeply believe in the purpose and possibility of the global Church being the transformative institution in places like South Sudan.
The Church is the Infrastructure.
South Sudan has no visible infrastructure. The division in communities is as geographic as it is racial. Roads and people groups are broken with no immediate remedy. However, beneath the brokenness there is a timeless skeletal structure known as the Church. Churches are deeply embedded in South Sudanese fabric. The problem is that many of them are weak and marginalized. One of the things I love about the way my parent organization does development work is the fact that real change and transformation is accomplished by strengthening and training local churches. Rather than simply giving money or dropping food, with hopes it will fall into the right hands, build capacity in what remains. Strengthen the bones. They will live.
The Church Provides Hope
Hope is perhaps the most important of all human virtues. Some say we can't live without it. In the midst of so much pain, suffering, and hopelessness - one South Sudanese pastor says, "Part of our message as a church at the moment is to tell the people 'Hey! There is hope. What has a beginning will have an ending ...'" Hope does not disappoint and without hope, there can't be life. The Church in South Sudan (and anywhere) must be a place where hope can radiate.
The Church is Doing its Job.
As a Jesus-follower, I believe the Church in every community is there for a very specific and Biblical purpose. The Church should be working for the transformative good of the community. It's part of the Biblical job description. While there's been a lot of crappy things done in the name of the Church throughout history - that's only part of the story. The full story includes amazing and beautiful things. Transformative things. Things that don't make history books, but radically change lives and families for the better. Forever.
I'm currently thinking, praying, and talking quite a bit about South Sudan. My theological and spiritual roots put me in a place of believing quite strongly that the answer to pain and brokenness, and specifically that which is currently South Sudan, lies squarely in the hands of the Church, globally. Here and there.
The generosity of the Church here, empowering the Church there. The Church there, teaching the Church here. It's beautiful when it works both ways.