Multiethnic Composition of South Sudan’s Juba Centenary Choir an Inspiration for Unity

A section of South Sudanese singing during the independent of their country in July 2011
Credit: Public Domain

Described as “one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse countries on the African continent” consisting well over 60 tribes with distinct and unique social structure systems, South Sudan, independent since July 2011, has had the opportunity of cultivating unity in the rich diversity of the various ethnic groupings.

However, since December 2013, the colorful richness of the country’s ethnic diversity has posed a threat to a collective sense of nationhood through a protracted civil war that has claimed thousands of lives, AP reported.

The multiethnic composition of the over 700-person choir preparing to animate the Liturgy of the conclusion of the centenary celebrations of Juba Archdiocese on November 1 seems to offer an inspiration toward national unity.

The choir is made up of South Sudanese living in their country’s capital and going beyond their individual tribes, languages, socio-economic status, among other distinguishing factors, some choir members have testified to ACI Africa correspondent in Juba.  

“Singing in different languages is bringing harmony of people from different tribes into one body,” the Information Secretary for the Juba Archdiocese Centenary Celebrations, Damian Logali told ACI Africa Tuesday, October 29.

In his considered view, Logali said, “when people sing in different languages, it is a way of harmonizing people from different tribes and diversities together.”

“We become united in the Church singing together in our dialect and this can bring peace,” John Wani, a lecturer at St. Mary’s University College in Juba who is part of the choir to animate the centenary celebrations testified and added, “This is why I love singing. We are supposed to collect all these tribes and become one because we say, one language, one tribe.”

“I really love it because if I sing in a different language and people listen to me, they become proud and we become friends, we become brothers and sisters,” Wani recounted, hinting to the inspiration for national unity that the multiethnic composition of the Juba choir manifests as the members rehearsed for the Friday, November 1 event.

Officially inaugurated a year ago (November 1, 2018), the centenary celebrations of the Archdiocese of Juba involved various activities including a celebration in honor of missionaries who have facilitated the evangelization of the world’s youngest nation marked on October 10, popularly known as Comboni Day.

Comboni missionaries spearheaded the evangelization of Sudan and South Sudan, the first mission within the territory of Juba Archdiocese having been Rejaf Parish on the west bank of the White Nile, established in July 1919.

The centenary celebrations have been guided by the theme, Renewing our faith and responding to its challenges.

“I know how to sing (in) like seven languages. One is my Mahdi, and two is Bari, three Lutuko, four Acholi, five Arabic, then in English, and Toposa,” John Juma who is the Youth Secretary of the Liturgy in Holy Rosary Parish within the Archdiocese of Juba told ACI Africa.

“I learned togetherness, unity,” Juma added and explained, “We are united; even we learned about the beauty of God’s love and love among ourselves through music.”

Juma continued, “Sometimes when we go outside moving as a choir, people say all of us are one tribe but later they see that we have Mahdi, Acholi, Bari and Lotuko.”

Josephine Alal echoed the sentiments of other choir members who spoke to ACI Africa in Juba and acknowledged with appreciation the rich diversity multiple languages offers the choir she is part of.

“You don’t have to say this is not my language and all that,” Alal said and added, “Singing in many languages make the prayer beautiful.”

“Rose flower is nice because it has different colors and it can’t be beautiful without those colors,” Alal concluded.

ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.

Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa
[email protected]