Last week we helped host a MCC Learning Tour here in Rumbek. Much of our job as Peace and Justice Coordinators is emailing and visiting Fathers and Sisters in different parts of the Diocese to see how we can support them in their work for peace. It is gratifying work but it doesn’t lead to a very exciting tour – “this is where we type emails”; “this is the vehicle we use to drive a few kilometers in several hours”; “this is the time we sit in long and hot UN security meetings to hear a different perspective”; “these are the phones—yes, all 4 of them—we use to try to communicate with the Fathers and Sisters”; “this is our newly installed solar system – it helps us work more than 3 hours a day.” So instead we talked about the things we have been learning since coming to Sudan and some of the challenges we have experienced.
When we talk about the challenges in our job we tend to, unfortunately, talk about the negative parts of the culture. Forced marriages, dependency on outside resources, cattle raiding, violent disarmament, and tribal conflicts. All of these issues are very relevant to our work but it can get sort of depressing. We didn’t want to be all gloom and doom so scheduled a trip to the Girls Secondary School just outside Rumbek. This is a place filled with positive energy and girls getting educated.
During the question and answer time at the end of the tour one of the participants of the Learning Tour asked the students, “We have heard about some of the challenges in your culture, but what are some of the positive things?”
The girls answered, “Dancing, singing.”
Then, with a principal’s prompting, they talked about how they were so close to each other and to their families that if anything happened to someone they knew they felt the same pain as if it would have happened to them.
“And are you ever lonely?” the principal asked.
All 40 girls answered unanimously, “No”.
I wondered how many people in North America, or even in the Learning Tour group, would answer this question in the same way and with so much confidence. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to. MCC Learning Tours are for people to learn about what MCC is doing in different places – the background and reality of other people’s lives. I hope that these girls gave the group much to ponder, like they have for me.