A few months ago, I thought Sudan Sunrise was close to shutting down. It looked like our journey in reconciliation, which began 12 years ago with southern Sudanese Christians taking urgent relief to Darfurian Muslims, was coming to an end. I am now convinced that we are standing at the threshold of the most important work we've ever done.
Why would we be close to shutting down? The renewed fighting in South Sudan in July necessitated the cancellation of two strategic plans for reconciliation and development while also exacerbating the challenges of working in South Sudan by multiplying uncertainty, danger and expense.
Why renewed hope? A Darfurian friend contacted me to share the vision of a fledgling university in Sudan's Nuba Mountains. I had met Juma Seif Shaibu at one of our reconciliation initiatives ten years ago in South Sudan, and he has now moved to Nashville. He explained that thousands of students in the Nuba Mountains had finished secondary school but had no viable options to further their education.
Khalid Abass, the head of Kush State University (KSU), further described their vision for a secular university for men and women, for Muslims, Christians and students of any faith. Nuban Christian leaders are equally enthusiastic about KSU.
It is a vision of courageous beauty, particularly considering Khartoum's divide and rule tactics. Many Nuban Muslims and Christians stand against Khartoum's oppression, and their united resistance efforts now control an estimated 80% of the Nuba Mountains. It is in this pocket that KSU is located. Since June, no bombs have been dropped on Kauda, where the university is located and there is currently a cease-fire. Thankfully, this year there have been no fatalities in Kauda. KSU is not looking to build, but rather to make the best use of their existing modest facilities while expanding their course offerings. Over a thousand students (30% Muslim, 70% Christian) are already enrolled in courses such as agriculture, business, community health, education, auto mechanics and political science. The students will become the future teachers in the primary and secondary schools and the future leaders in the Nuba Mountains.
Kush State University has no shortage of courage, determination or vision. But just about everything else a university needs is in short supply. We are working with KSU to build a network and partnerships in the US and we have begun a drive to raise $25,000 for teacher compensation, educational materials, etc. We've established a fund for gifts, of which 100% will go straight to KSU. As a Christian pastor, my heart is warmed by the news that the first step in helping this Muslim-led vision to help Christians and Muslims build a better future is a $2,100 donation from Jewish World Watch and the Darfur Interfaith Network, raised at this year's Walk to End Genocide.
Do you have ideas or contacts to help Kush State University succeed? There is a significant network of Nubans in the US, and if you would like an articulate Nuban Muslim and a Christian tell of their experience, and why Kush State University matters, we can arrange it. In this world rife with violence, peacemakers of all faith traditions need to partner with those doing the front line work, who can demonstrate that peace and cooperation are not only possible, but the pathways for a better future.
In other news, Abraham Bol Makur Acien, who directs the Lost Boy Education Operation, is now in Juba and is meeting with the World Food Programme to request food so the Wunthou school can have a free lunch program. Last week, Abraham was overjoyed to be reunited with his mother who he had not seen in 26 years. Abraham and his mother sent a picture of their joyous reunion. Soon he and his fiancé, Chiengdiar, will have their wedding in Yirol, the closest major town to Wunthou. Abraham will be spending time in Wunthou to mobilize the community to complete the construction necessary for the school to begin the free lunch program.
Victor Anyar, the Headmaster of the Manute Bol Primary School, has just complete two weeks of training in Juba for headmasters. Manute Bol would be pleased that the school that bears his name welcomes 600 Dinka students, and 200 Nuer children who have fled conflict zones, as well as a small number of children from Darfur. The school fulfills Manute's vision that the school would be open for all children of whatever tribe, region or religion. The example of reconciliation and cooperation is carrying on even amid tribal/political conflict; but without the ongoing support from Sudan Sunrise, the school would close.
The Rev. Daniel Deng Kuot's work this year has focused on bringing a message of peace, forgiveness and hope to South Sudanese displaced by conflict. Recently Daniel completed a successful two-week mission at a camp in northern Uganda made up of refugees who have fled South Sudan in the past five months.
Thanks to Joseph Elionai and Repent Daya, and the wonderful determination of the teachers and Diko community, the school in Diko has remained open. A modest stipend for the teacher through gifts to Sudan Sunrise has made this possible.
The engine that drives this work, scholarships and more is our General Fund. This is the giving that makes it possible for us to partner with projects like Kush State University and have 100% of the proceeds go towards that project.
The 12-year journey in reconciliation began with Christians taking aid to Muslims in Darfur, and it brought us to a partnership that could significantly impact development and reconciliation at a strategic time in a strategic location. Thank you for being part of this journey thus far, and if you have not given recently, please consider a special gift to help move forward in strength.
With deep appreciation, Christmas greetings, and prayers that you and your loved ones have a blessed New Year!
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