I wrote this for some “official people”, i.e. donors. Now I share it with you.
The Beginning – September 19, 2010
The Sunday began with Father Salvatore gathering his parishioners with their homemade placards to start the journey to the cathedral. Across Rumbek they walked with their messages of peace: Blessed are the Peacemakers, St Teresa Parish: The mission of Reconciliation, A future full of hope, Sudan will never be the same. The people of St Teresa walked until they reached Holy Family Cathedral where up to 500 people were gathering for the morning mass, singing “United we stand, Divided we fall”. Together the people were celebrating the beginning of 101 Days of Prayer for Peace.
The Vicar General, Father Andrea, led the people in a homily calling them to prepare for prayer, not war. He said that even in failure, war should never be an option because prayer is powerful enough. “We need to hold prayer in our hands”, he said. Fr Andrea reminded the people that each one of them has the freedom of choice – the freedom to choose life or the freedom to choose death. He prayed that this freedom of life would build a future of peace.
Greetings were also brought from the President of the Sudan Catholic Bishops’ Conference, as well as the Bishop of Rumbek, Cesar Mazzolari who was in Italy.
At the end of the service special guests from the 101 Days of Prayer for Peace planning committee, UNMIS, and government officials were asked to say a few words. The Political Advisor for the Lake State Governor talked of the land of Cush found in Isaiah, a beautiful land given to the people from God. He asked the people, “Are we prepared to forgive? We need to forgive our enemies, those who oppressed and persecuted us. Can we forgive the Arabs? We need to forgive ourselves and stop fighting in the bush. Are we prepared to forgive to [receive] Cush? Can we forgive?” The people responded – YES!
Songs, drama, and dancing completed the service – each telling as story of peace and reconciliation. One dancing group was surrounded by thread, the “ties of oppression”, but was freed when women came to cut away those binding forces. This powerful message brought the people in the church to their feet, joining the dance of freedom and peace.
It was a beautiful beginning.