Jesuit Entity in South Sudan Uses Sports to Foster Discipline, Teamwork in Displaced Youth

Members of the martial arts class, the Acrobats, perform at Dorocentre during celebrations for International Peace Day. Credit: Jesuits Refugee Service (JRS)

More than 250 displaced boys and girls from South Sudan are learning the value of discipline and teamwork through sports in a Psycho-Social Support program (MHPSS) spearheaded by Jesuits Refugee Service (JRS), an international refugee entity of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits).

In a Wednesday, April 6 report, JRS leadership highlights martial arts as one of the sports that the young boys and girls engage in and says that the sport’s instructor, Issac Ayub, focuses on discipline and teamwork as the pillars of the training.

“That is what martial arts are all about: discipline, teamwork, and personal challenges. Issac wishes to convey this message to his students,” JRS leadership says in the report.

Officials of the Jesuit entity in South Sudan say that since its inception in the country in 2013, the Catholic entity has been the center “for young refugees to express themselves through sport.”

They say that the training of the sport is centered in Maban, a county located in the Upper Nile State of South Sudan covered by the Catholic Diocese of Malakal.


“Martial arts are one of the activities refugees can engage in at the JRS center in Maban,” JRS officials are quoted as saying in the April 6 report, and add, “Through physical activity, young boys and girls grow in a safe and supportive environment.”

Issac, who is supporting displaced youth at Maban center by focusing on their limits, growth and teamwork, is equally a refugee who studied martial arts at the World Mission School in Ethiopia.

On his part, Issac expresses his expectation from the youth as he trains them. Besides discipline and teamwork, he underlines the need to develop both relationship and leadership skills as future leaders.

“I want them to have respect; it’s the first thing that I expect them to have, and then to have competence and to build trust among themselves,” he says in reference to the youth at the JRS center, and adds, “I want them to develop relationship skills, I want them to be good leaders in the future.”

In the report, Warmin Rija, an Ethiopian refugee, is quoted as telling JRS leadership that before joining the training, he experienced sorrow and that he found himself and changed after going through the training.

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JRS officials say, “Sport and physical activity have tremendous positive effects on individuals and communities. Warmin Rija discovered this truth when he signed up for a martial arts program at the JRS center.”

“Sport and social activities such as martial arts are part of JRS Mental Health and Psycho-Social Support (MHPSS) programs,” the officials of the Catholic entity say in the April 6 report.

They add, “The goal of MHPSS is to prioritize immediate physical as well as psychosocial needs, as this allows people to regain strength, confidence, and focus on their future.”

JRS presented their report on the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace (IDSDP), which takes place annually on April 6. 

According to the United Nations (UN), the day focuses on “presenting an opportunity to recognize the positive role sport and physical activity play in communities and in people’s lives across the globe.”


The UN recognizes that “Sport has the power to change the world; it is a fundamental right and a powerful tool to strengthen social ties and promote sustainable development and peace, as well as solidarity and respect for all.”

For the year 2022, the theme for the IDSDP is, “Securing a Sustainable and Peaceful Future for All,” and seeks to use the contribution of sports as a tool to not only promote human rights but to also advance sustainable development.

“Sport has the power to align our passion, energy and enthusiasm around a collective cause. And that is precisely when hope can be nurtured and trust can be regained,” UN Deputy Secretary General, Amina J. Mohammed, said.

She added, “It is in our collective interest to harness the tremendous power of sport to help build a better and more sustainable future for all.”

Silas Mwale Isenjia is a Kenyan journalist with a great zeal and interest for Catholic Church related communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communication from Moi University in Kenya. Silas has vast experience in the Media production industry. He currently works as a Journalist for ACI Africa.