'The longest journey of any person is the journey inward'

A Catholic Sister in South Sudan reflects on her country's civil war

THIS UNSHAKABLE desire to continue with the peace process brought back tome the words of Dag Hammarskjold, the former UN Secretary General who died in a plane crash in September 1961, on his way to negotiate a ceasefire between non-combatant UN forces and Katangese troops of Moise Tshombe in Congo. Dag said: "The longest journey of any person is the journey inward.”

Each one of us may comprehend the quotation differently, but experience has taught me that taking the journey to explore our inner space is one of the most difficult and challenging tasks in the life of any person. It is much easier to take a plane and fly to Addis Ababa or to another destination.

Today Dag challenges each one of us South Sudanese, those involved in the peace process in Addis Ababa and all those craving for peace in the world’s youngest nation: “What kind of journey have I made within myself in order to contribute to this peace process in sincerity of heart?”

“What baggage do I carry within me as an individual for the peace process?” I strongly believe that true peace in South Sudan should start with this inward journey, a journey of transparency towards oneself and to God—facing up the truth about myself, feelings and attitudes toward others. We have each contributed to this conflict because  our selfishness, aggression, greed, gossip, jealousy and prejudices have divided us.

As stated by Dag, our work of peace must begin within the private world of each one of us. In my view, to build peace in South Sudan we must be just and act without fear. How can we fight for freedom in the country if we are not free in our minds? “What can you and I do to create a completely different South Sudan without boundaries?”

Each one of us is responsible for everyone’s security, safety and peace since peace is a collective responsibility of all of us and not only of President Salvar Kiir and the rebel leader Riek Machar. We can only build a peaceful South Sudan, if we are ready to sacrifice and truly surrender our personal objectives to the common good.

That is a journey to be made at both the individual and community level. I pray and hope that we may realize the significance of the present moment as a bridge between the past and future in South Sudan—and that we will be capable of making this journey together.


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