Of October 19 to November 1st, Sr Nunzia di Gori, general Superior of the Congregation and Sr Mary visited the sisters of the Congregation present to South-Sudan: in Wadakona and in Rejaj-Juba.Sr Nunzia written:
“... it’s from the State of South Sudan that I am writing this letter; from this big village, Wadakona which rises on the right bank of the Sudanese Nile in the Province of the Upper-Nile. Today it constitutes the eastern demarcation line between North and South (the two) Sudan.
Wadakona can only be reached by boat from Renk, a small town, which before the referendum of 2011, was rather considered as the point of arrival and for the sorting of merchandise and of persons, hailing from the north, namely from Khartoum and can be reached in 7-8 hours, via coach or via camion.
Well, with the referendum, which in reality has ratified the separation between North and South Sudan and with the consequent birth of the new State, namely, “South-Sudan”, the boundaries have been closed. Renk and all the surrounding villages, including Wadakona, which now constitute the extreme north of the new State, have in reality found themselves again totally isolated.
Cut off totally from the communication network from the north (hopefully only temporarily), they remain too far from the neo-capital city Juba, which presently can only be reached across the river (15 days on the Nile if the boats are lucky), or with small humanitarian airplanes, if there are any. The roads are impracticable or completely inexistent. In fact, to arrive here, Sr. Mary and I could make use of a small airplane rented by an N.G.O. to carry out healthcare services once weekly. Sr. Pascale, the Provincial Superior who was with us could not board the plane. She thus remained in Juba until another occasion crops up.
Thus, due to its position, Wadakona is presently undergoing a twofold isolation: first in relation with the two capital cities: (Khartoum for North Sudan and Juba for South Sudan) and secondly in relation with Renk which is closer and could only be reached by boat. However, this village represents a big community of men and women, elderly persons and children (around 15 thousand inhabitants); they are almost all Christians and arrived here in the 90’s to avoid massacres, committed in the regions and throughout South Sudan, due to the long decades of political and social instability.
Therefore, despite their immense efforts to survive, the people of Wadakona, like all the Sudanese in the south, are already savouring the first dawn of freedom. The village has nothing, neither roads, nor an equipped hospital, nor big markets, nor internet and not even drinking water … But they feel a “happy part” of a people who is finally free. One can read it in everybody’s eyes! One can perceive it from the mouth of the elderly. The women repeat it with a gentle but monotonous tune when they come to visit us. They express their gratitude because: “you came here that far to visit us” … And one can hear it every morning in the square opposite the derelict school, from the voices of the young boys and girls who with a proud, dignified but touching posture, address their greeting to “their own” flag while they sing the national anthem which has been recently composed as if it were a sacred rite or a liturgical celebration … It never happened for 50 years. Today they are a nation! They feel it, they enjoy it and they express it.
Freedom! Its value is understood by those who are deprived of it or by those who have just acquired it.
We, sisters of charity are present in Wadakona across a community of four “missionary” sisters. Presently all of them are from Sudan and they accomplish their service in four domains: 1. the first steps to literacy for the adult women; 2. the animation and the coordination of the school; 3. a healthcare dispensary; 4. the coordination of the catechetical and the pastoral activities. Every Sunday, a catechist presides over the liturgy of the Word in an incredibly full church. The priest comes from time to time.
We arrived here from Khartoum in January 2009, when the district was still under the government’s control and we could already glimpse the first signs of the new historical process. It was necessary even for us to create a passage towards the south, and the province of the Upper Nile portrayed the entrance door. We received a request from Wadakona on behalf of the Archbishop of Khartoum, Cardinal Gabriel Zubeir Wako, and his assistant Mgr. Daniel Adwak. The Congregation gave a positive and generous answer to the Church and to History and followed the fate of the southern people to whom all our young Sudanese sisters belong. Their families had somehow experienced the exodus’ hassle.
The referendum of January 2011 brought to an end – hopefully for ever – over 50 years of civil war, of biblical exoduses and massacres committed silently and with indifference on behalf of the world. Today a new history is emerging … Not easy, but beautiful! We are in the first gleam of a new dawn, of which, here, in this perspective of the Upper Nile, natures itself permits a daily glimpse of the premonitory signs. One seems to intuit all this by remaining there enchanted to enjoy the sun’s reflections rising from the Nile. These intensive and multi-coloured glares reach even the chapel where the small community, like all our other communities in the world, meets precisely at dawn to sing and praise God-Trinity, Lord of the new day, God of this history and Father of the new people.
From Wadakona … to Rejaf (Juba)
Therefore, dear sisters, with Sr. Mary and Sr. Pascale Khoury, we arrived in South Sudan from Egypt on the 19th October and reached the new capital, Juba. At a distance of 10 km. rises Rejaf, a mission of an old Combonian tradition. In fact it’s the first one founded in South Sudan in 1919.
Today, Rejaf, is a village that holds the entire signs and wounds of a military occupation which lasted for decades. In fact, here stood a strategic military centre. Down the years, the majority of the population, most of them Christians, had decided to leave the district. Today, instead, an exodus is occurring and the village is gradually becoming repopulated.
In Rejaf, as requested by the archbishop of Juba, Mgr. Paolino Lukudu Loro, a community of three sisters, two of them Sudanese while the other Italian, has been integrated for an educative-pastoral and healthcare service. Another request arrived from the already Nuncio of Sudan, Mgr. Leo Boccardi, to work in favour of the so called “street” children who have neither a family nor any other social protection. We are building a «foyer» for these children who are financially helped either by the Franciscan community of Assisi, or by the generosity of many friends across the world or by the small or big sacrifices of many of our communities especially those of the elderly sisters. But we are still at the very beginning … We are looking for networks, collaborations and assistance. Nothing would be possible on our own. Obstacles never fail, but Providence, like the dawn of the Nile, and still even more, rises on us first and will be able to indicate us the way!”