Hopeful Signs for Southern Sudan

The name ‘Sudan’ evokes images of a worn torn land, ravaged by destruction; and of emaciated people, desperate for food. The photos of Mundri we saw, some which Penny had taken in 1986 and some from Tom’s recent visit, told a different story.

The land was much greener than imagined (Tom’s visit was just at the end of the rainy season) and crops grow well there. There are large mango and other trees. The houses are mainly traditional ‘tukels’, blending into the landscape.

The few ‘western’ houses, with their bright roofs stand out as being somewhat incongruous – as did the Cathedral building. Mundri Town main street is very basic. Particularly in 2012, the photos showed people who looked well fed and well dressed. At least on the surface, there were smiles and a carefree look.

We saw images of malnourished children from 1986. There were refugees from Uganda then, and internally displaced people. Then, it had been a period of continuing development. However, the effect of nearly 20 years of war has set this back, so that there is now little infrastructure.

The horrors of war have taken a high toll on many of the people. The photos, and the discussion they stimulated, led to a feeling of hope for this newest country in the world.

Their land is fertile, there are considerable oil reserves, and the faces we saw looked optimistic. But: ‘where do you start?’ The role of government is vital, but it is seen as being corrupt and dominated by one tribe (Dinka.) The country is land locked and so needs good relations with its neighbours, especially Uganda and Kenya.

The church is one of the main organisations; and photos of dancing, smiling, prayerful worshippers increase a sense of optimism.