CRS President Ken Hackett is in South Sudan for the new country’s first days of independence. He wrote this column for the Catholic News Agency:
JUBA, South Sudan — Less than a week after the United States celebrated its Independence Day for the 235th time, another nation was born, beginning its journey into history. That would be the Republic of South Sudan which raised its flag for the first time as a sovereign state in ceremonies in its capital Juba on Saturday.
It was my privilege to be here as part of the official U.S. delegation which was led by United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice. My inclusion in that delegation is in part recognition of the work that my group, Catholic Relief Services, has done in South Sudan in the years of struggle and hope that led to this moment. But mainly it is a recognition of the efforts of so many American humanitarian organizations, of volunteers, of dedicated professionals, of clergy and lay people, of all sorts of caring groups and individuals whose efforts helped make this day possible.
Certainly this is a time of celebration. The gestation of South Sudan included decades of war that left millions dead and displaced. It included peace building work – often led by churches – at every level, from resolving small community disputes to involving the largest international actors.