A New Nation – New Church

Daniel Bol

The church in South Sudan has now begun a new direction after the painful experiences of the civil war. The new independent nation is zooming along at many miles an hour to get settled. In July 2011, the world witnessed a historic day – Independence – which unleashed emotional joy in the African people of South Sudan. On July 9 2011, testimonies of the new nation’s struggle were reported in the newspapers and seen on television inside Sudan and across the world. But the nation’s journey is not yet over, since there are many issues that are on the negotiating table.

Episcopal Bishop at the Cathedral service in Khartoum, April 24, 2012

Sudanese have been in the conflict of civil war for many years, and in that time their cases did not attract international attention until almost half the population was lost – over two million people. Many from the west could not, or did not, believe the tragedy. They could not understand that civil wars in Africa can be attributed to factors like ethnic conflicts, religion and political imbalances.

Sudan is a land occupied by both Africans and Arabs and has been one nation for many years; as a result, Independence has chopped off the southern part of the country, while Arabs retained the old name of Sudan for the north.

To track the past, Sudan gained its legitimate authority from its former colonial ruler, Britain, in 1956. By then, their sovereignty, political and social history among the rest of Africa was settled, yet things did not go well. Sudan has for a long time embraced two religions, Islam and Christianity. Both have different ideologies in politics. That was the major difference, which led to two decades of hostility and loss of lives.

After many battles were fought, the peace negotiation was initiated in Kenya and lasted four years. Many people did not trust that the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) would actually lead to peace. But, pushed by the governments of the European Union, the United Nations, the United States of America and the African Union, it did. They were the real coaches of the game, which brought South Sudanese to victory.

However, soon after the signing of the peace accord, the charismatic leader of the South, John Garang, was killed in a helicopter crash. The man who had striven to bring his fellow Africans to a liberated future, had just left his fellow Southerners with unfulfilled vision

People mourned as if Moses had died. News of his death spread around the world.
What did it mean to the government of the North? Hidden joy as if they did not accept the legitimacy of peace agreement, but it still led to the Day of Independence in July last year.

World leaders traveled to Africa’s new capital, Juba, to declare Independence. On a dusty windy day, the new nation was named Republic of South Sudan, and the people of the world witnessed a joy, which the South Sudanese will never forget.

As Christians, what promise does this offer the Anglican Church and her believers in the South? The answer is similar to what happened to the Israelite, when they entered the Holy Land after suffering many afflictions in the Sinai desert. But now in South Sudan, the Church and its ministries are at initial stage of development, and this will take decades.

Recently, South Sudan sang a birthday song for being one year old on July 9 this year, but things are not at all settled. Certain issues still existed between two nations, in particular, political conflicts related to oil fees, border demarcations and citizenship. Added to this, the government in the north still expressed hatred against Christians. In April, the Muslim soldiers from the Northern government had burned down the Anglican Cathedral in Khartoum as an evidence of ‘Christian cleansing.’ There is now nowhere to proclaim the Gospel in Khartoum.

It could be argued that independence provides a strategic opportunity for the Church to revive the Gospel among the people from the South.

I can remember how the Church’s mission had been threatened by the Khartoum regime for many years. Bombing and burning raids on Christian sanctuaries were at alarming rates during the conflict. Thirteen years ago, we used to conduct worship services at seven o’clock in the morning to escape the warplane bombardments later.

Those years were like a hell for the Church to persevere. To find a safe place to worship was difficult, since the Church was targeted.

Without a doubt, Southern Sudanese are now happy about being an independent nation, and the church has to point its feet towards its mission. Southern Sudanese are 98% Christian believers, but majority of them are in need of spiritual development. Therefore, the Church needs to be built on a solid foundation.

From now on, both the government and the Church have a lot to do, even though we start from a desperate situation. We have a huge mission to fulfill but with faith, courage and assistance we believe it is possible

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Kim Miyong: Studying English at ACU

By Daniel Bol

South Korean Flag

 

In my life I like having interaction with a lot of people – friends, family members, fellow students and anyone who I met. Sharing social activities with people from different parts of the world is a tremendous benefit to our education.  I was grouped with my fellow student whom the lecture had identified. I eventually asked my friend her name and what she is doing and where she comes from. She said, her name is Kim Miyong, from South Korea.

Kim Miyong is a student doing nursing at ACU University.  She came to Australia two years ago with the intention to study English in Australia.  Not many nations around the world base their systems of learning in English – many of the nations in Asia have languages based on characters other than the English alphabet. For example,South Korea is one of those nations that uses symbols.

So Kim decided to come to Australia mainly for improvement in the English language. Even though Kim finished her Masters in Nursing, and obtained her license with South Korean qualifications, she still believes “understanding English is a big problem”. The events which led to Kim’s decision to come to Australia were her search for qualifications in English language studies, which she might have missed in her life.  She believes studying in the English-speaking world will properly upgrade her profession to an international nursing career.

Kim came to Australia on a student visa. She told me: “My visa was supported by the congregation and South Korean students and people who are working here in Australia”. Kim applied for a student visa so she can continue with her master’s degree in nursing at the research level in Australia. Kim has now enrolled in the Diploma of Liberal arts in the Australian Catholic University so she might gain knowledge through studying hard.

During my interview with Kim, she mentioned that, “one of the big problems in my learning is that, I write well, but I do not speak well”. In this case though, I do not think Kim is the only student who is struggling with her learning. There are many friends from non-English speaking nations in the School, so Kim would get courage and knowledge as we

It was really good for me to learn more from Kim since she comes from a different country, especially in terms of things that are not comparable to Australia life and culture.

I started looking at how Kim dresses every day, when she comes to class and around the campus. She always dressed in a full dark silver dress, and pearl white headscarf sheet tied on her head, which indicated to me, this might be either traditional or religious. She told me “I am Benedictine sister in the Catholic church”. That is a worthy life, I said; she continued that she lived with sisters of the Catholic Church. “They are supporting my life and my studies,’’ she said. “I believe in God who has unlimited life, that is why I have this scarf on my head”.  Perhaps it was not a surprise for me to hear, but is prompted me to at least query on how Kim become Christian. She said it was through my parents: “they all were Christian, they made me be baptized while I was a child, and therefore, I become automatically Christian”. I nod my head knowing that many people even here in the school are Christian, Buddhist, Hindus as well as Muslim or Atheist, and each person has a special way of obeying their religion.

Nonetheless, Australia is a multicultural country where workers, tourists and students do come to work and learn, based on the nature of their various visas. I did not hesitate to learn more from her on what will happen after she finishes her course. Kim will go back to South Korea, to work in her previous job in the hospital, which she said was a convincing job compare to when she may be looking for a job in Australia. She mentioned that “nursing is a good profession to help others so I have to go and help my people”.

It is not sometimes possible to get what might have been an expectation from one’s heart in Australia. In this country learning and accommodation are very challenging, especially when one comes from overseas. So Kim is really genuine to opt to go back home, rather than to stay here in a supported accommodation.

To work in an industry, there are usually challenges and benefits that one can experience. Kim was very keen to tell me one significant component of her career: “To be a nurse is really challenging, and one has to be a committed person who can take care of others.  I like this course as it really not only to provide necessary needs of other, but also for your own good”

It was a privilege for me to meet Kim and talk to her about her country – a little bit of history, political, social life, medication, and employment. Perhaps the history of the nations remains the same around the world, based on the nation’s early policies and history. As Kim said, Korea was colonized by Japan until when it gained independence in 1940, before it was later divided it into south and north. The main economic sources are “industry and IT” – since the country does not have natural resources, it has invested on technological inventions, and car manufacturing.  According to Kim, there are a lot of jobs around, but many young people do not like to work in the heavy jobs, they like light professional jobs. So South Korea has to import workers from neighboring countries like Japan and China to work in their big industries, whereas in Australia people have to toil to their sweat

Kim has her family back in South Korea – her mum and two older sisters, one younger brother. Both her sisters have married and now live with their families, but her father passed away many years ago.

I said to Kim on the issue of maternity rate in her country. In Australia, for example, it is a choice, whereas in China, the policy of only one child or none is impacting. “There is no limit,’’ Kim said of Korea. “It depends on the parent whether they like ten or more, the reason is that the medication is good”. The Government provides 70% of hospital costs, making it easy for anyone to meet the medication cost on their own to stay healthy.

Kim is a good friend. We are enjoying the communication class together and I wish her well in the studies.