Tag Archives: Peace

Rwandan genocide anniversary: A Thursday at the pool in Kigali

Today marks the 19-year anniversary of the beginning of the Rwandan genocide that took the lives of almost 800,000 people in 1994.

World Vision's Tom Costanza visited the "Hotel Rwanda" in February, and recalls his trip and the tragedy 19 years before.

The power of one person's obedience

I am continually astounded by the power of individual people to make a difference.

After The Hole in Our Gospel was published, readers started sending me letters, telling me how God has used them to do remarkable things. Sometimes they took in foster children or became adoptive parents. Others changed careers or sold vacation property so they could be more useful to the kingdom of God. All of them are changing lives, spreading hope, and making the Gospel tangible to people in need.

The power of individuals to change the world has been a theme in our culture over the last year. It was a single person who launched what became the Arab Spring. Protesting corruption and inequality, a street vendor set himself on fire, galvanizing demonstrations that toppled the Tunisian regime, and setting off a protest movement across North Africa that continues even now.

The 'salt' in a modern-day Jericho

For five days, we listened as the women of the Congo shared with us the unspeakable horrors they had experienced -- personal stories of abduction, rape, and mayhem at the hands of men who use violence against women as a weapon of war.

But harder still for me to hear were their accounts of a second round of abuse at the hands of those from whom they should have expected comfort and compassion -- parents who rejected their own daughters after they had been impregnated in violent attacks by local militias; in-laws who laid claim to land and possessions from widows forced to watch as their husbands were killed in front of them. More than a decade of fear and devastation has ripped apart the very fabric of life for the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Four days old: Many hopes, many challenges in new South Sudan

Chants of “Republic of South Sudan Oyee” will forever be etched in the minds of many South Sudanese as they reminisce over their independence -- today, only four days old.

An overflowing crowd of people, both young and old, showed up at the John Garang Memorial to mark the historic event on July 9. Tens of thousands of South Sudanese endured the blistering sun, all along energized, as they erupted into song and dance when the country became the world’s 193rd country and Africa’s 54th.

I saw men and women faint as the declaration was made. Others openly broke into tears as the new flag was hoisted.

A new hope through independence

It’s a long journey from the backyard barbecues and fireworks of our own Fourth of July festivities to the Republic of South Sudan, a new country that will be born in just days from today on July 9. I’m willing to bet, though, that our traditional summer celebration will seem downright routine compared to the life-changing nature of South Sudan’s first birthday.

At first glance, it may seem as though future citizens of South Sudan don't have much to be grateful for or much to celebrate. They will be receiving the poorest corner of one of the poorest countries on earth -- a place beset by hunger, disease, and war. According to a 2007 government study (pdf), mothers in Southern Sudan are more likely to die in childbirth than anywhere else on earth. Another report indicated that more than half of the population lives below the poverty line.

So why do the Sudanese celebrate? Maybe they’re celebrating a fresh start. Maybe it’s that most South Sudanese long to write a new, unbloodied page in their history, to cultivate a renewed community and land for themselves and their children. Maybe it's the hope that, on this day, all the problems facing South Sudan will be put aside so that everyone can celebrate this moment to start a new future together. Frankly, that kind of hope leaves most of our Fourth of July celebrations in the shade.

The hope beyond what I saw in Sudan

Editor's note: Three weeks ago, we asked Collins, a World Vision communicator in Zambia, to write about his recent experience in Sudan, supporting World Vision's office there. His reply: "My experience in Sudan makes me feel as though I should write a book, because it is something I have never experienced in my life before. You have really asked for the blog at the right time." As South Sudan prepares to celebrate its independence as Africa's newest country on July 9, we continue to to offer assistance to this conflict-weary region.

Indelible memories of the suffering I saw in Darfur have followed me since the day I left Sudan for Zambia. My mind and heart are still attached to the people of Sudan, especially the children. I have seen suffering and poverty in Zambia and other places in Africa -- but not of the magnitude I saw when I visited Darfur’s camps for internally displaced people (IDPs).

All I used to hear were stories. I never used to think it was that bad -- until I saw the reality at Otash camp, near Nyala, the capital city of South Darfur, Sudan, where displaced families have migrated for safety.

South Sudan: Can independence bring a brighter future?

Editor's note: South Sudan, a region left devastated by decades of civil war, held a referendum last January in which voters decided to split from the northern part of the country and become an independent state.

Preparations are in full swing for festivities to mark the upcoming independence of South Sudan. The mood is upbeat. On July 9, some 30 heads of state will travel to Juba, the acting capital city, to witness the birth of this new country.

The history behind this event

The region's path to independence was preceded by 21 years of conflict between rebels in the South and the government based out of Khartoum, Sudan's capital city in the North. This created a massive humanitarian crisis, with large populations displaced and left without access to essentials.

'We refuse to be enemies'

It was one of the most memorable meals I’ve ever had. The location was a hilltop west of Bethlehem about a month ago, and my fellow dinner guests were 30 pastors and church leaders from the United States. That night, our bus parked at a cement-and-barbed-wire barricade, and we hiked about half a mile over two such barricades to have dinner at the top of the hill -- in a cave!

The prominent sign at the end of our hike proclaimed the slogan: “We refuse to be enemies.”

The parcel of land west of Bethlehem is only about 100 acres. It is owned by the Nassar family, a Palestinian Christian family who have lived on and farmed the land since 1916. It is squarely in the West Bank, and according to international law, belongs to the Nassar family and is not part of Israel. But today, it is surrounded by 50,000 Israeli settlers, living on similar land confiscated from other Palestinian families.

Coming 'home' to uncertainty

When the president of Sudan, Omar Al Bashir, visited the South Sudanese city of Juba a few days ahead of the January 9 referendum, I was among the thousands who turned up to welcome him. Despite the scorching sun, I humbly joined my countrymen to welcome His Excellency the President. He reiterated that he would be the first to recognize...

Voting for hope and peace in Sudan

If you are a close follower of international news, or perhaps of film star George Clooney, you might have picked up there’s a bit of excitement surrounding an independence referendum going on in Sudan this week—one that is likely to see the creation of an entirely new nation.