“What would you do?”
It is such a simple question.
What would you do if you knew that the child standing next to you on the sidewalk was about to dart out into traffic? You would stop her, of course.
It is a better question to ask than “What should I have done?”
We are asking that question at Catholic Relief Services these days because of the situation in Sudan. A referendum on possible independence for southern Sudan is scheduled for January 9. In two decades of violence before the signing of a 2005 peace accord—which included provisions for this referendum—some 2 million people died; another 4 million were forced from their homes.
Many fear—in fact, some are certain—that this referendum will not be a well-run vote that will allow the southern Sudanese to choose their future: that instead, Sudan will return to the kind of bloodbaths too often seen in its history. Sudan borders 9 other countries and there is the real possibility that its problems could spill over to those neighbors.
So, what would you do?
Our answer is working to see that this referendum comes off peacefully and with integrity, that its results are respected, that the southern Sudanese are allowed to choose their own destiny.
In addition to our widespread humanitarian work in Sudan, we have made a sizable and sustained commitment to the important work of keeping the peace and building trust in the run-up to the referendum.
The Catholic Church and other religious organizations are the most respected institutions in the communities of southern Sudan. People there look to the Church for their basic needs, for food and health care and education. At a tumultuous time like these months before the referendum, they also turn to the Church for information that they can trust. Our staff works primarily through our Church partners in trying to build and sustain the peace.
As many of you know, the 1994 genocide in Rwanda affected CRS deeply. We realized that it was not enough to help people with food and shelter and their economic needs, that we needed to deal with the issues of justice and divisiveness that can lead to such violence. That was the beginning of our peacebuilding efforts. Sudan is the biggest test to date of that new direction.
I do not want to mislead you. There is a very good chance that we will not succeed. The fissures in Sudan are deep and well-formed. The presence of oil and its promise of riches in land disputed by the north and south multiply the problems. The tensions they create are not easily dissipated.
But that does not mean we do not have to face up to the question: “What would you do?” And answer it by saying, “Everything we can.”
So what can you do?
Pray for the people of Sudan at this crucial time in their history. Learn as much as you can about the challenges they face. Our website dedicated to this cause is a good place to start: www.PeaceinSudan.org. Join the many who are speaking up, calling on governments and organizations around the world to let the Sudanese people know that we stand with them, to let those in power know that the world expects and demands a fair vote. And donate to help support CRS’ work in Sudan.
Do those things and you will not have to face the question, “What should I have done?”
Thank you for your continued support and your prayers.