Ask the average person in South Sudan why there’s so much tension there right now, and you’ll get a variety of responses: tribalism, corruption, ethnic conflict, and military abuse of power.

Recently, though, young people there got a chance to work out their fears, and the outcome was surprising. They found ways to solve everyday conflict on their own, with coaching from a Maryknoll Sister.

southsudan2011“Their stories were incredible,” said Sister Janice McLaughlin, who spent part of July and August in the new east African nation formed this summer. She gave peace-building workshops among college students who shared their concerns for the future.

Everyone Sister Janice met had lost members of their family in the 20-year Sudanese civil war. With wounds still fresh from the conflict, forgetting can only happen through disarmament and reconciliation, she says. A few areas of territory remain contested, and fighting still goes on. About two million people are reported to have lost their lives in the conflict.

Yet the country’s future was decided by the people themselves. In a referendum earlier this year, the Sudanese people voted for independence from the north. The result is the new Republic of South Sudan, which officially became a separate nation in July. You can send your own prayer for the new nation right from our website.

“It is critical to provide skills training and employment possibilities for former fighters so they have means of making a living and contributing to rebuilding the nation,” Sister Janice said in a published interview.

Over half of all people in the new country are younger than 18. They may have faint memories of the Maryknoll Sisters who have served in Sudan since the 1970s. This summer,  Sister Janice, a former missioner in Kenya, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, helped build a nation as part of marking her fifty years as a Maryknoll Sister in 2011.

Sister Janice entered Maryknoll fifty years ago this summer, right in the middle of the Maryknoll century. Indeed, the Maryknoll movement is 100 years old this year, and the Maryknoll Sisters begin celebrating their Centennial in only a few months.

For young people in South Sudan, the future can be just as bright–if they believe in the goodness in themselves. Sister Janice said most young people she met have never looked back and realized how much they had overcome in their lives and how strong they were.

Said Sister Janice: “These young people had known nothing but war, and they are hungry for peace.”