So far, the bishops’ conference has no website, but the bishops are working towards an online presence. Because there are few roads, families stay in touch by phone. The local church sends out daily messages via mobile phones, “about peace, reconciliation, and spirituality”.
“We have a radio station that we use for prayers, for the Angelus, the rosary,” the bishop said. “The youth like music and the elderly like prayers. We also use the radio to share information, to read pastoral letters and messages from the Holy Father, for catechesis, and to talk about the social teaching of the Church. Every day there is a piece on Catholic social teaching that we translate into various local languages to make people aware of their own rights and responsibilities, their human dignity. Sometimes the government questions Catholic social teaching but we insist that the people have to know their rights.”
Bishop Kussala explained that the bishops’ conference works in a unique way. “We belong to two countries but one Church. We respond to the pastoral needs of each country depending on the perspective of each country. The conference has one secretary-general and two deputies, one for each country. Our seminary and pastoral center is for both countries. Sudan is predominately Muslim and South Sudan is mainly Christian, and both countries are marked by war. Thus, working together is essential.”
Bishop Kussala also spoke with gratitude about the influence of Jesuits who have been part of education in both countries for decades. Besides being professors at the Catholic university, they have opened a center for the renewal of agriculture in a community that is livestock-based, with a teachers’ training school attached. He also thanked the Daughters of St Paul who are helping to create a culture of reading in the country through their bookshop in Juba (the nation’s first).
As for the role of women in South Sudan, Bishop Kussala says that without them the country will go nowhere. “The government plans to give 70 percent of job opportunities to men and 30 percent to women but I say that job opportunities must be open equally to both men and women.”
With a promise of grateful prayer, Bishop Kussala described the reason for his visit to the United States as the representative of the Sudan Relief Fund. “I am here to ring the bell, to ask the people of the United States to come to the aid of South Sudan in a stronger way: diplomatically, politically and socially. South Sudan would not have been born if the United States and other European countries had not been close to us. When we achieved independence, they all thought the job was done and they gave up what they were doing to ensure peace. Then came the war. These countries saw this, didn’t like it, and rather than assist us they relaxed their diplomatic efforts.
“The formation of a new government of national unity is happening now. Its success is crucial to the peaceful stability of South Sudan. We want the United States to come closer, not in a forceful way, but as father, mother, a patron and friend of the people of South Sudan, to continue the material development of the region. To mitigate conflict, we need development. There are so many idle young people who are available to work for development initiatives. So this is why I am here. To ring that bell. Please come; don’t leave us alone. Don’t abandon us.”
-Sister Rose Pacatte