“Interculturality and the Challenge of Ethnocentrism in South Sudan”

From May 7-9, 2019, we had at Comboni House our workshop on intercultural living and the challenge of ethnocentrism in South Sudan with 16 participants, including Fr Johnson (Palica) and Mr Isaac Kenyi (SSCBC) and 3 Comboni sisters. We invited Fr Basilio and Loes Lijnders from the Justice and Peace department of the Catholic University to give an input and facilitate a discussion. The focus was on moving from passive co-existence to active co-existence, to embrace diversity and to be aware that each individual is made up of various identities, of which the ethnic origin is not necessarily the defining identity. The third speaker was Comboni Fr Paolino Tipo who shared his experience of peace building with the Shilluk, Dinka and Nuer in Malakal and proposed concrete steps to building trust. Mr Isaac Kenyi presented his publication of the SSCBS booklet “Tracking Peace Process in South Sudan”. He gave an overview on the stages of conflict since 1991 and had a rather pessimistic outlook if the political and military leadership of South Sudan will not change their corruptive behavior. We also organized a Bible sharing on the topics of justice (Lev 19:11-18; Is 58:1-12), reconciliation (Lk 6:27-38; Col 3:12-17) and fraternity (1 Jn 4:7-21; Prv 3:27-33). The workshop was well received by all, and the discussions were frank and, at times, emotional.

Among the many recommendations of the participants, we point out the following: It is not possible to help reconcile the country if there are unreconcilable differences within the leadership of the church (SSCBC and each diocese) and lay Catholics of different ethnic origin. The Catholic Church needs a platform (focal point) like a website or an office where information, resources and personnel are shared on the issues of ethnocentrism/tribalism and intercultural living. The youth need to be targeted in particular because they are the future generation to build a better society.