CRS representative discusses Sudan

Erin Reback

Paul Nantulya from Catholic Relief Services delivered a lecture on peace efforts in Sudan on Sept. 25. Sudan, established as a country in 1956, has known only 11 years of peace. The nation has been ripped apart by civil war based on racial and religious differences between the North and South. Northern Sudan is home to mostly Arab Muslims; Southern Sudan houses mostly Christians.

In 2005, the country of 34 million enacted a peace treaty, working toward comprise between the fighting factions. Before 2005, all government has been based in the North. This fact elicited a feeling of exclusion from Southern Sudanese. CRS aims to erase this perceived exclusion in an effort to politically, economically and socially unite the country. The treaty has established a temporary, autonomous government working in Southern Sudan.

The peace treaty says that in 2011, Southern Sudanese have the right to vote in favor of secession.

“Both North and South must make peace an attractive option,” Nantulya said. “If not, unity is impossible.”

Nantulya said he and CRS strive to bring the ideals of the peace agreement to life because establishing a fruitful economy and honest government is necessary for Sudan to change.

“Change needs to happen or people lose confidence and the peace agreement will collapse,” Nantulya said.

The organization has dedicated itself to improving the quality of life in Sudan by repairing the lines of trust and promoting compromise.

In order for peace to become a reality, Nantulya and CRS focus on training in mediation, tolerance, reconciliation and stereotype reduction. Specific programs CRS supports are health care, education, agricultural development and peace-building.

In regard to health care, CRS has established clinics for the ill and provides training in medicine and first aid. Educationally, CRS has developed schools and instruction for educators.

Distracted by the fighting, Sudan has been unable to utilize its agricultural resources. Sudan has some of the most fertile land in all of Africa. If it were able to develop, the country would be able to feed all of sub-Saharan Africa.

“Natural resources make Sudan one of the richest countries in Africa,” Nantulya said.

Believing that peace is possible, CRS continues to focus on the agricultural possibilities of the nation.

Nantulya’s department at CRS, peace-building, works closely with the newly established Southern Sudanese government and recognizes its responsibility to intervene in conflict situations. CRS intervenes by providing counseling and treatment.

Several years ago, a female graduate of one of CRS’s peace-building programs lost her daughter at the hands of a Ugandan rebel group, the Lord’s Resistance Army.

“The trauma was real,” Nantulya said. “Dialogue was necessary for her to heal.”

After counseling provided by CRS, the woman forgave her daughter’s perpetrators.

Today, the woman is a primary agent supporting peace-building in Southern Sudan.

Even though animosity still exists, it is clear that progress has been made.

“People willing to move forward is an encouraging sign,” Nantulya said. “CRS will not leave Sudan as long as it is wanted and needed there.”