Just posted to our Web site, David Hollenbach, S.J., on what South Sudan can learn from Catholic teaching as it struggles to set a course for the future:
The Catholic community in South Sudan especially shares the responsibility to help shape the life of the new country. Catholics are a sizable part of the population, and because the long civil war so weakened social life, the church today is one of the few functioning bodies in civil society. Because of this important role, Catholic Relief Services and an association of women’s and men’s religious orders named Solidarity with South Sudan invited me to conduct a week-long workshop in August for church leaders. I was asked to speak about how the Catholic understanding of social justice and peace could contribute to the development of the new country. It was a humbling privilege. What follows sketches some of the suggestions I made, moving from the foundational principle of Catholic social thought to several more practical recommendations.
1. The protection of the human dignity of every person, which requires active participation in the life of society, is the core responsibility in all social interactions, and protection of the most basic requirements of human dignity is the particular responsibility of the new government of South Sudan. This foundational principle follows from the fact that all citizens are created in God’s image. This dignity requires that they all contribute to the life they share in common and that they all benefit from it. As Pope John XXIII put it in his 1961 encyclical Mater et Magistra, “human beings are the foundation, the cause and the end of every social institution” (no. 219). The new institutions of civic and governmental life that are being created in South Sudan, therefore, should protect citizens’ rights and enable citizens actively to shape their life together.
2. The people of South Sudan should be helped to become active citizens through civic education that teaches them how to work together for the common good of all. South Sudan, like many other developing countries, faces the danger that the immaturity of its political institutions and culture will make it difficult to sustain a stable democracy. A single referendum and occasional elections are not enough. The church can help South Sudanese citizens learn their new role as citizens. That the church can provide effective civic education is clear from the role it played preparing people for the referendum on independent statehood.
Read the rest here.