Nonviolent Peaceforce in South Sudan: The extremes of the human spirit


An article by Mel Duncan of Nonviolent Peaceforce

I have just returned from South Sudan. I am heartbroken and inspired. Adequate adjectives escape me. In such extremes, words can lose their meaning. How easily terms like famine, gender based violence, internally displaced, etc. can become abstractions even for the most compassionate of us. I was overwhelmed with anger as I stood with people in the dust, heat, and destruction while armed men lurked close by.

Yet, even in those conditions, I saw glimmers of resilience forming into action. For example, I sat in a hot, dark hut with 100 women, most of whom are rape survivors, as they talked about preventing children from becoming soldiers, intervening when violence flares and organizing rallies to bring opposing clans together. They told me about transporting a rape survivor in a wheelbarrow to a medical clinic. Even with limited resources, these women tirelessly work to protect themselves and others. They want a voice at the peace talks! Seldom have I felt such energy and spirit!

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Question for this article

Do women have a special role to play in the peace movement?

Can peace be achieved in South Sudan?

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NP’s teams are training and supporting these women peacekeepers ̶ close to a thousand at work in five locations. Regardless of how bleak the prognosis, we will align with those who without particular power or skill are nonviolently changing the world. The lead article in Sunday’s New York Times, War Consumes South Sudan, a Young Nation Cracking Apart illustrates the horror in places like Bentiu ̶ where we have a team of 21 civilian protectors. Amid the Times’ stories of murder, starvation and gang rape they neglect to tell about these remarkable women who have stepped through the brutality and are working to protect themselves and others. These women not only represent a personal resilience but more importantly, they embody the deepest strength of the human spirit.

    “My heart is moved by all I cannot save:
    so much has been destroyed
    I have to cast my lot with those
    who age after age, perversely,
    with no extraordinary power,
    reconstitute the world.”

    ― Adrienne Rich

(Thank you to Janet Hudgins, the CPNN reporter for this article.)