Sudan Rhetoric: Prayers for Peace and Ticking Time Bombs

JUBA, Sudan–Sister Cecilia Sierra Salcido has spent the past 11 years working in Sudan and speaks the Juba dialect of Arabic as well as the next Southern Sudanese. A nun from Mexico who is as apt to cite a documentary about Rosa Parks and the civil rights movement as she is to quote a biblical verse, Sister Cecilia is also the directress of Bakhita FM, the first Catholic radio network in Sudan. Along with other members of the Catholic Archdiocese of Juba, Sister Cecilia has organized a large prayer campaign, called “101 Days of Prayer for Peace,” that was launched in Juba on Tuesday.

The seven Catholic archdioceses across the south will be organizing prayer vigils, rallies, and masses for the next 100 days. I interviewed Sister Cathy about the campaign and about her views on the current political situation in Sudan in her office at Bakhita FM earlier this week. Her own words were powerful and I wanted to share some of them here:

“There are a lot of forecasts of war…all these indications that tell us the situation between north and south is as tense as ever. When negotiations don’t work, the least we can do is pray. From my experience of war [in Sudan], people hold onto prayer. It was their only resource. And now they have left it for some time. But I think we have to resurrect this weapon…

During the elections, people were thinking that something bad would happen, that there would be conflict, and although it was not up to the satisfaction of everybody…I still think that the people of Sudan have realized that they are capable of much more than they thought they were. The capacity to hold peace first in their lives and treasure this gift and say, we are not going to let it go, this experience will also be the basis for the referendum.”

This language sharply contrasts with the “ticking time bomb” rhetoric Secretary of State Clinton used to describe the situation in Sudan less than two weeks ago. True enough, Sister Cecilia is a nun and Secretary Clinton is the foreign policy front woman for the most powerful country in the world. But Sister Cecilia has spent the past 11 years living and working in Sudan and Secretary Clinton has not been here since she assumed office.