Today, South Sudan is reported to be one of the world's poorest countries with 8 million people, or two thirds of the population, dependent on humanitarian aid.
Earlier this week, the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) warned that South Sudan is suffering its worst humanitarian crisis yet. Some 300,000 children under the age of five alone are at risk of starvation, the agency said in a report published ahead of South Sudan's tenth independence anniversary.
Various faith groups have, on the occasion of the July 9 anniversary, lamented the many years of civil strife in South Sudan, saying that there is little to celebrate in the country.
In a statement dated July 9 but circulated Thursday, July 8, members of the South Sudan Council of Churches (SSCC), however, express hope into the future saying the optimism at independence on 9 July 2011 “can still be rekindled.”
James Malek, the chairperson of the newly established St. Bakhita Catholic Community in Nakuru, said that the July 9 anniversary celebration will be marked by entertainment and Holy Mass. He clarified that not only South Sudanese are invited to the event that will be attended by a sizable number of people in adherence to COVID-19 regulations.
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“We are not just inviting South Sudanese people but anyone who wishes to know about our culture,” Mr. Malek, a university student and community leader in Nakuru said, and added, “We invite everyone because this is a platform of integration and a way to make the refugees feel welcome in Kenya.”
He said that St. Bakhita Catholic Community will fill the pastoral gaps among many South Sudanese Catholics in Nakuru Diocese.
“We have many social groups and we usually organize parties, inviting fellow refugees where we can build unity away from our home country. The only thing that has been missing is the faith aspect,” Mr. Malek said.
He added, “With this new pastoral community, many South Sudanese people will be able to attend Holy Mass. We will even have South Sudanese Priests come over to celebrate Mass with us. I think there are more than a thousand South Sudanese people here but not many of them come for prayers because of the language barrier.”
In her message for the South Sudanese community on their independence celebrations, Sr. Margaret Mumbua who is in charge of migrants in Nakuru Diocese encouraged the refugees to continue building their “dreams” even as they long to be at home in their own country.
“In everything you go through, with every pain you have undergone, always know that God wants you to be here at this moment. Therefore, work very hard to build your dreams and participate in the growth of your host country,” Sr. Margaret said in an interview with ACI Africa.
The member of the Sisters of Joseph, Mombasa added, “I know how difficult it can be to be away from home. I have listened to many of your heartbreaking stories. But nothing cheers me up more than seeing a young person from South Sudan who is excelling in school.”