South Sudan: A glimmer of hope

by Eva Gerritse, PAX

A diocese needs a bishop. In the beginning of March, a new bishop was finally installed in Torit, South Sudan, after the city had been without one for five years. Five years in which a lot has happened. Let’s go back a bit in time.

September 2017. The renewed violence in Juba, which broke out less than a year after the first peace agreement to end the civil war, had quickly spread to the south of the country. Torit, southwest of Juba, was turned into a ghost town within a few weeks. Many people fled to the camps in Uganda or into the bush. The market was deserted and the roads into and out of town were impassable.

High wall

For months, people in Torit hardly dared to walk the streets anymore for fear of violence, committed both by armed individuals and groups, by people in or out of uniform. When I was there in the fall of 2017, it was still very quiet. Together with our partner, Father John Opi of the Diocese of Torit, I was there to evaluate how the projects were going, to go through some administrative matters, and to discuss what it would take to continue the work. He had arranged a hotel close to the airplane landing strip, with a high wall around it, where we could have meals so that we didn’t need to go outside much. In the car, he pointed out the places where people had been shot a few weeks earlier. Fortunately nothing happened during my visit and the situation has improved since then. But at that moment the desolation and silence were prominent…

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Peace, Social Issues

Do you hear the silence?

by Jan Gruiters, PAX

“Do you hear the silence.” A poem Utrecht´s city poet Els van Stalborch wrote in response to the horrible, irrational violence that kills and injures innocent people. Out of the blue on a Monday morning in Utrecht, on a tram on the 24th of October Square. A square named for the date of the founding of the United Nations.

Do you hear the silence? You can hear it in the PAX office in the centre of Utrecht, not far from the scene of the shooting. A distant siren. The clatter of a helicopter. A taxi speeds along a deserted street. But in the silence, you also hear the people’s sadness for lives snatched away. And you hear the fear of what may be coming.

“Utrecht holds its breath,
fear runs on stocking feet
through the streets and beats
on doors, windows,
sneaks into schools and
scares children. ”

Hold your breath

Utrecht holds its breath. The Netherlands is holding its breath. People are searching for answers. Was this violence caused by mental illness, or to commit a crime? Or is it aimed at our way of life, at democracy and the rule of law, and thus at all of us? This question hits home. We are all too aware that a terrorist attack can further divide an already polarized society. So we hold our breath.

Regardless of what motivated the shooter in Utrecht, the question remains: what do we do with the fear that knocks on our doors and creeps into our houses and our hearts? What do we do with the awareness that our way of life, that our own lives are so vulnerable to violence and division?

Dutch right-wing populists Theirry Baudet and Geert Wilders have an answer that has been heard before in our recent past, the results of which we continue to mourn. An answer that both responds to fear and fuels that fear. Their response: evil comes from elsewhere, from people with a different background, a different religion, people they say do not belong here. They call for people to lock their doors and windows — to lock the outsider out…

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A show for two men with a red button

by Jan Gruiters, PAX

Two men with a red button met in Singapore. It can just end up in a disastrous failure. But it could just as well be the beginning of a historic breakthrough. An end to the war between North and South Korea. A start of nuclear disarmament. Today the impossible has happened, who knows what else is waiting for us.

One thing is certain. Nobody knows for sure how this will end. On the way to Singapore, Trump showed why. Again he became known as a capricious egocentric president who attacks his friends and embraces his enemies. He pleaded for permission from Russia to the G7. For neighboring and ally Canada, only a special place remained in hell.

The Guardian warns that we should not see the summit as negotiations. It is a show for two leaders who have come to Singapore with other goals. Negotiations require a healthy dose of realism, a clear goal and a strategy to achieve that. North Korea has been preparing for years for this moment. If not Trump. Prior to the summit, he did not need “too much preparation”. As a self-proclaimed expert in the art of negotiations, Trump has sufficient ” touch and feel “…

Click here to read the entire article on PAX’s site.