Sudan and Advent: What's the Connection?
By Marge Mattice
Once again, God's timing is precise. At a time when we are called to hope, to reflect on the coming of God's son as one of us, the people of Sudan find themselves on the brink of a referendum regarding the separation and independence of southern Sudan from the north. Historically, Sudan has seen much civil strife over recent years, only intermittently speckled with periods of relative peace. From the Sudanese bishops has come a plea to the world for prayers and assistance in promoting a peaceful referendum, which is to take place on January 9, 2011.
By intention, this reflection omits facts and figures, that while important, will take a back seat to a more fundamental and rudimentary question. To be sure, thousands upon thousands of Sudanese have lost their lives in the hateful act of genocide. Countless Sudanese children and women have been beaten, raped and tortured. Massive numbers have been displaced from their homes.
But the overarching question that connects Advent and the plight of the Sudanese people has to do with the capacity of the human heart to be moved by another's suffering and to responds in hope. Advent gives us pause to reflect on God loving humanity so much that this love became flesh in human form. All humanity, without exception, is infused with God. Every person shares a common humanity based on our common divinity. Christians are called to live out their realization of this awesome truth in active compassion. Distance is not the measure of our sisterhood or brotherhood. Our peace-full hearts and lives will give flesh to the Gospel of non-violence in imitation of Jesus. Each one of us has been given a small portion of the world to which we can bear witness to the wisdom of concern for the common good. St. Paul's timeless analogy of the body reminds us that we are all interconnected. And when one part of the body suffers, all suffer.
So, during this graced season of Advent, as we "wait in joyful hope", we pray in solidarity with the Sudanese people. This referendum carries within it the seeds of great growth and peace, or the potential for violence and destruction. Let us pray with a unified voice, "Peace on earth".
(Marge Mattice is a Norbertine Associate and member of the Abbey Justice and Peace Committee. A wife with two adult children, she also serves the wider community as a nurse practitioner.)